Right Tackle ToddŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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. ďWishing you a Merry Christmas,Ē Clem read. ďThis is the real thing. Hope you like it. Iím sending it to Alton because I donít know where you are. Give some to Gray. Yours, J. T.Ē
Mart declared that he detested gum and wouldnít chew the stuff on a bet, but after watching Clemís 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. ďThe pesky stuff!Ē he grumbled. ďFirst thing we know weíll have the habit!Ē 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 Jimís 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 didnít 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 ďThe 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.Ē 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 ďThe Chinese TongĒ 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 secretaryís 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. ďMoved and seconded,Ē read Jim weightily, ďthat the Secretary be and hereby is empowered to contract for a sufficient supply of letter paper, appropriately printed with the Societyís 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.Ē There were light refreshments later, and afterwards several members spoke informally Ė often embarrassedly Ė 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 wasnít 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:
ďYou havenít been in to see us, Todd, for a long time. Weíre getting out of touch with events, Mart and I. Better drop in some time and cheer us up.Ē
Jim looked as if he suspected the other of joshing. He was never absolutely certain about Clemís ingenuousness. ďWell,Ē he answered, ďIíd been around before only I knew you were pretty busy with hockey and Ė and all like that.Ē
ďOh, hockey doesnít take all my time,Ē said Clem. ďFor instance, I donít play much after supper.Ē
ďOh, well, I meant that being captain of the team youíd likely be pretty busy one way and another. Iíll be dropping in some evening soon, though, if you say so.Ē
ďWish you would. Good night!Ē
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 didnít really care a hang about the queer chap, of course, and Ė But hold on! Was that quite true? Didnít 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 Ė and he grinned as he flung open the door of Number 15 Ė it was just Toddís quality of being ďdifferentĒ!
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 Ė even one or two of fur Ė 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 didnít 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 Jimís first glimpse of such a contest, and he was, for Jim Todd, quite excited over it.
Between the halves Clem skated over to him. ďArenít you frozen?Ē he asked wonderingly.
ďMe? No.Ē Jim shook his head slowly. ďItís right cold, though, ainít it? A whole lot colder than we have it in Maine, I guess. Say, whatís that thing made of youíre hitting around on the ice?Ē
ďRubber. Havenít you ever played hockey?Ē
ďNo. When I was a kid we used to whack a block of wood around with sticks, but it wasnít much like this hockey. Looks like youíve got almost as many rules as there are in football. Youíre a pretty nice skater, ainít you?Ē
ďNot as good as some of the fellows,Ē replied Clem. ďYou skate, of course.Ē
Jim nodded. ďThatís íbout the only thing I can do real well,Ē he answered. ďDonít believe I could get around the way you do, though; dodge and turn so quick and all like that. I ainít so bad at skating fast, but Iíve got to have plenty of room.Ē
ďBetter go into the races Saturday morning,Ē suggested Clem. ďWhatís your distance?Ē
ďYes, what are you best at? Half-mile? Mile? Two miles?Ē
ďWhy, I donít know. Iíve skated in a lot of races, you might say, but we didnít ever measure them. Weíd race, generally, from the old boat-house to the inlet; on Lower Pond, you know. Guess thatís about three-quarters of a mile; more or less.Ē
ďWhy donít you enter for Saturday, then?Ē asked Clem. ďYou ought to be able to do the mile if youíve been doing the three-quarters, Todd.Ē
ďWell, I donít know. Would you? Does it cost anything?Ē
ďNot a cent,Ē laughed Clem. ďThereís a list of the events over on the notice board in the gym. Better pick out a couple and get your name down.Ē
ďWell Ė Gosh, though, I canít! I didnít bring my skates. I sort of had a notion there wasnít much skating down here. I guess there wouldnít be time to send for them, either, to-day being Tuesday.Ē
Clem leaned over the barrier and viewed Jimís shoes. ďNo, I guess not, but I think Martís skates will fit you. Drop in later and weíll see. He doesnít use them much.Ē
ďMaybe he wouldnít like me to have them,Ē responded Jim doubtfully. ďAnyway, I ainít skated since last winter, Harland, and I guess I wouldnít be much good. Much obliged to you, but maybe Iíd better not.Ē
ďWell, if you change your mind Ė Ē 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 heíd take part in those races if it was all right about the skates. ďThereís a two-mile race down, I see, and I guess Iíd like to try that.Ē
ďTwo miles? Thought youíd been doing three-quarters,Ē said Clem, while Mart dug his skates out of the closet.
ďYes, but sometimes I got licked, and Iíve got a sort of notion I can do better at a longer distance. Maybe Iíll try for the mile, too. I guess thereís a lot of pretty good skaters going into it, eh?Ē
ďYes, I suppose so,Ē said Clem, ďbut youíll have a good time. You donít mind getting beaten, do you?Ē
Jim frowned slightly. ďWhy, yes, I guess I do,Ē he replied. ďEvery fellow does, donít he?Ē
ďWell, I meant to say you didnít mind much. Of course no fellow wants to take a defeat, but he has to do it just the same sometimes, you know. And thereís a whole lot in taking it the right way.Ē
ďThe right way?Ē inquired Jim.
ďWhy, yes, Todd. Look here, are you joshing me? You know what I mean, confound you!Ē
ďWell, I donít know as I do,Ē said Jim doubtfully. ďI donít get mad when Iím licked, if thatís what you mean. Leastways, I donít let on Iím mad. But it donít make me feel any too good to get beat!Ē
ďI suppose your trouble is that youíve never been beaten often enough to get used to it, then,Ē answered Clem. ďGetting mad doesnít do any good, you crazy goof. You want to smile and make believe you like it.Ē
ďOh, for the love of Liberty,Ē wailed Clem, ďtake this fellow off me, Mart! Heís worse than a Philadelphia lawyer!Ē
Martís 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. ďI never saw a pair just like these before,Ē he confided admiringly. ďWhat they made of, Gray?Ē
ďAluminum, mostly. Light, arenít they? Like them?Ē
ďGosh, yes, but I donít know if I can do much with them. They donít weigh moreín a third what mine do. Iím going to try them, just the same. Iím much obliged to you.Ē
ďYouíre welcome. Just see that you win a race with them. Weíll go down and root for you, Todd.Ē
ďI might win the two-mile race,Ē replied Jim, ďif I get so I can use these right. Iíll try íem to-morrow.Ē
They didnít 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 oíclock were contestants. Clem, yielding to the solicitations of the Committee, had entered for three races at the last moment, and it wasnít 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.
ďWant to catch pneumonia and croak?Ē he demanded. ďDonít you know you canít skate with that stateís prison offense on and that if you take it off youíll freeze stiff? Where were you when they handed brains out, Todd?Ē
Jim grinned. ďHello,Ē he replied. ďThat was a nice licking you gave all those other fellows. And, say, if youíd got going quicker in that other race youíd have made it, easy.Ē
Clem was looking attentively at the mackinaw. Now he felt of it. ďSay, thatís some coat, son. Whereíd you get it?Ē
ďIíll bet itís warm. I never saw one made of as good stuff as that is. Any more like it where it came from?Ē
Jim chuckled. ďIím going to write pop to send down a couple dozen of them,Ē he said. ďYouíre about the tenth fellow thatís asked me that so far. I could sell a lot of íem if I had íem.Ē
ďJoking aside, though, can I get one, Todd?Ē
ďSure. Pop sells them. Iíll give you the address if you want to send for one. Iíve given it to a lot of fellows already.Ē
ďOh, well, if the whole schoolís going to come out in them I guess Iíll pass,Ē said Clem regretfully. ďI suppose those are what the lumbermen wear, eh?Ē
Jim nodded. ďLots of folks wear them. Theyíre mighty good coats. Only six dollars, too. Better have one. Maybe popíll give me a commission.Ē
ďSix dollars! I believe youíre trying to make a dollar rake-off on each one! Say, what are you down for, Todd?Ē
ďDown for? Oh, the mile and two miles. You?Ē
ďJust the half. Iíll get licked, too. See you later. But, honest, Todd, you oughtnít to skate two miles in just that cotton shirt, you know.Ē
ďWarm enough. It ainít real cold to-day. Hope you win.Ē
But Clem didnít, 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 didnít 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 didnít have much hope of capturing that race, and certainly no one who watched him could have censured him. Jimís skating was far from graceful. He didnít 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. Jimís 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 couldnít 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.
ďWell, feel mad, do you?Ē asked Clem as he and Mart sought Jim.
Jim scowled and then grinned sheepishly. ďI could have won if Iíd had my own skates,Ē he muttered. ďThese are all right, only I ainít used to them. Bet you I could beat that big fellow if I had my own skates.Ē
ďNewt Young?Ē asked Mart. ďWell, Newtís a pretty good lad, they say.Ē
ďI could beat him,Ē reasserted Jim doggedly. ďHe gave me a jab in the nose, too.Ē
ďWhat? Newt did?Ē Clem was incredulous. ďI didnít see it. Where was it?Ē
ďPlaying football, I mean,Ē answered Jim. ďHe was on the first squad when I was playing. He gave me a good one one day, and I donít guess it was any accident, neither.Ē
ďAh,Ē murmured Clem sadly, ďI fear yours is a vindictive nature, Todd. I am disappointed in you.Ē
Jim observed him doubtfully. Then he said ďHuh!Ē Finally he grinned. ďWell, he didnít have any cause to hit me,Ē he added, ďand I sort of wanted to beat him.Ē
ďMaybe heís down for the two miles,Ē suggested Mart cheerfully. ďDo you know?Ē
Jim didnít know, but Clem did. ďHe is,Ē declared the latter. ďSo go ahead and wreak vengeance, Todd. You have my blessing. And I guess theyíre about ready for you, too.Ē
ďGosh, I wish I had my own skates,Ē muttered Jim wistfully.
ďNo alibis, Todd,Ē said Clem sternly. ďDo your duty.Ē
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.
ďThat,Ē observed Clem dryly, ďlets our Mr. Todd out of it.Ē
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 ďManiacs,Ē as Clem dubbed them not very originally, refused to own defeat for their favorite and continued to howl imploringly for Jim to ďCome on and win it!Ē 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.ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ŮÚūŗŪŤŲŻ: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17