Ralph Barbour.

Right Tackle Todd





At the quarter-mile he was undoubtedly gaining on Young, and public sympathy, ever tending toward the under dog, veered from the senior suddenly and surprisingly, and the loyal sons of Maine found their hoarse ravings drowned under a greater volume of cheers for Jim Todd. Come on, Todd! You can beat him! Skate, Skinny Boy! Come on! Come on! Youve got him, Todd! Hit it up! Hit it up! Even Mart, who was a most reticent youth when it came to public vocal demonstrations, appeared to be trying very hard to climb Clems back and yelling: Todd! Todd! Todd! Todd! in the most piercing tones about four inches from Clems left ear. Clem, though, failed to comment on the phenomenon at the time, being extremely busy enticing Todd to the finish with both voice and gesture!

It was somewhere about three hundred yards short of the line that Jim realized that defeat was not necessarily to be his portion, that Newt Youngs admirable grace and form were at last lacking and that that youth was probably as tired as Jim Todd was. Jim devoutly hoped he was even more tired, although he couldnt conceive of such a thing! Any one who has taken a header in an ice race knows that it produces a most enervating effect and, for a time at least, leaves one in a painfully breathless condition. Perhaps Jim recalled that, in his opinion, superfluous tap on the nose of some three months previous, and perhaps the recollection of that painful indignity urged him to superhuman effort. That as may have been, the runaway windmill kept on closing the gap, slowly but inexorably.

The distance between the two dwindled from eight yards to half that many, from four yards to two, from two to one! They were almost stride for stride as they swept down on the finish line. Young, suddenly aware of the loss of his advantage, seemed at once incredulous and disheartened. There was a brief instant when he faltered, and in that instant Jim swept into the lead. Perhaps thirty yards still lay before the adversaries, and Young seized on his courage and determination again. But once in the lead Jim was not to be headed. Indeed, it seemed that until the instant of passing Young he had not shown what real speed was! The tall youth found in those last few yards some joints he had not suspected the possession of, made surprising use of them, swayed, bent, buckled and threshed down the ice with the lithe grace of a camel with a hundred-mile gale behind it, and gyrated across the finish line a good eight yards ahead of his adversary!

The sons of Maine went crazy, every one yelled and the official timekeeper proclaimed that the school record had been burst into infinitesimal fractions! As no one seemed to know what the Alton Academy record for the two miles was, the present time of six minutes and forty-one seconds was accepted as something to cheer for. So every one cheered again. And about that time Young pushed through to Jim Todd and shook hands with him, and Jim grinned and forgot to say anything about that incident on the gridiron, and every one went home.

But Jim Todd leaped into mild and momentary fame, and for some weeks was pointed out as that long drink of water who beat Newt Young on the ice and broke the school record for the mile or two miles or something. Perhaps his fame would have lived longer if, at about that time, Alton hadnt played her final hockey game with Kenly Hall and smeared up the Cherry-and-Black to the tune of 7 goals to 3, a feat which, after last seasons defeat for Alton, was hailed with joy and loud acclaim and resulted later in the election of Clement Harland to succeed himself as captain of the team.

Since Clem had been the first youth to get the hockey captaincy in his junior year in the history of that sport at Alton, he was now possessor of the unique distinction of being the only hockey captain ever serving two terms. Mart sniffed and said he hoped Clem wouldnt get a swelled head over it, but that he probably would and so wouldnt be fit to live with much longer!

Whether Clem was fit to live with or wasnt, it strangely happened that Mart never had an opportunity to reach a decision in the matter, for after Spring recess Mart came back to Alton with a vast distaste for exertion and a couple of degrees of temperature that he hadnt had when he went away. A day later he went to the infirmary and there he stayed until well into May with a case of typhoid that seemed to give much satisfaction to the doctor in charge but that failed to please Marts parents to any noticeable degree. It was a strange, washed-out looking Mart who rolled away one morning in an automobile for the station on his way home, and while his smile was recognizable by Clem the rest of him seemed strange and alien. Mart managed a joke before the car started off, but it was such a weak, puerile effort that Clem found it easier to cry than laugh over.

During the rest of the term Clem saw more of Jim Todd than ever, for Jim had been sincerely concerned about Mart and had offered all sorts of well-meant but impossible services during the illness, and Clem had liked the kindness and thoughtfulness shown. Besides, Clem felt a bit lonesome after Marts departure, and Jim was handy. On one or two occasions Clem even climbed to the upper floor and endured the presence of Bradley Judson for the sake of Jim. Judson, who shared the sloping-ceilinged room with Jim, was no treat, either, according to Clem!

At home, Mart wrote an occasional brief letter. He said he was getting along finely, but the letters didnt sound so. Jim, however, who, it turned out, had seen typhoid fever before, reassured Clem. Typhoid, declared Jim, left you pretty low in your mind and weak in your body, and it took a long while for some folks to get back where they had been. So Clem took comfort. And then June arrived suddenly, and the school year was over.

Toward the end of July, Clem, who was leading a life of blissful ease at the Harland summer home in the Berkshires, received a letter from Jim. He didnt know it was from Jim until he had looked at the bottom of the second sheet, for the writing was strange to him and the inscription on the envelope Middle Carry Camps, Blaisdells Mills, Me. failed to suggest the elongated Mr. Todd. Clem tucked his tennis racket under his arm, seated himself on the lower step of the porch and, seeking the beginning of the missive, wondered what on earth Jim was writing about. He wouldnt have been much more surprised had the letter been from the President and summoning him to Washington to confer on the Tariff! He hadnt seen or heard from Jim since June, and, since life had been full of a number of things, hadnt thought of him more than a dozen times. And now Jim was writing him a two-page letter in queer up-and-down characters and faded ink on the cheap stationery of a Maine sporting camp!

Friend Harland (Clem read): I guess youll be surprised to get a letter from me and will wonder what in tuck I am writing about. I just heard last week that Mart Grays folks have taken him to Europe and that he will not be back to school this next year. Im right sorry he dont pick up faster, but thats the way it is with typhoid lots of times. What Im writing about is whether you have made any arrangement with any other fellow to room in with you. You see, Harland, it is like this. I wasnt very well fixed where I was last year. Judson is all right, I guess, only I dont cotton to him much. And I was thinking that perhaps if you didnt have any fellow in view to room in with you now that Gray wont be back, perhaps you wouldnt mind me. Of course, you may have some other in mind. I guess likely you have, but I thought there wouldnt be any harm in asking.

Im right easy to get along with and Im neat about the place. I guess thats about all I can say for myself, but you know me well enough to know that we would likely get along pretty well together if you thought well of the notion. Anyway, Id like you to answer this when you get time and let me know. It will be all right just the same if you dont like the notion or have made other arrangements. I just thought Id take a chance.

Im up here at this place guiding. Im just a local guide. Im having a right good time and the pay is pretty fair. There are about seventy folks here this month and lots of women and children. Mostly I look after the women and kids, take them out in the boats or canoes and fishing. Theres good fishing here all right, and if you ever want to catch some good bass you come to this camp some time. I guess you wouldnt be able to come up for a spell this summer. I would show you where you could catch them up to three pounds and no joking. The regular guides here are a fine lot of fellows, and we have some pretty good times. They eat you well, too, here. Id like for you to come on up if you could, if only for a week. I would guarantee you to catch more fish here in a week than you would most anywhere else in a month. Well, let me hear from you, please, pretty soon, because whatever way you say Im going to see if I cant make a change this fall. I hope you are having a pleasant summer. Yours sincerely, James H. Todd.

Clem smiled when he had finished the letter. Then he frowned. It was going to be rather awkward. How could he tell Jim that he didnt want him for a room-mate without hurting the chaps feelings? It will be all right just the same if you dont like the notion or have made other arrangements. Clem reread the sentence and smiled wryly. It was all well enough for Jim Todd to say that, but Clem knew very well that it wouldnt be just the same. The difficulty was that he hadnt made other arrangements. He might tell Jim that he had, but that would be a lie, and Clem didnt like lies. Besides, Jim would find out he had lied, and be a lot more hurt than if he had been told the unflattering truth! Clem wished mightily that he could have foreseen this situation and written to Mr. Wharton, the school secretary, as soon as the tidings of Marts withdrawal had come. Wharton would have arranged things for him in a minute. Instead, though, he had kept putting the matter off, and now this had happened. Gosh!

Clem recalled the fantastic figure that had wandered into Number 15 that afternoon. If the fellow would only dress less like a a backwoodsman it would be something. Then Clem recalled the fact that toward the end of the Spring term Jim had looked a great deal more normal as to attire. Clem sighed perplexedly. He liked Jim, too, he reflected. There were lots of nice traits in the fellow. In fact, after Mart had gone home he had preferred Jims society to that of most of the other chaps he knew in school; and he knew a good many, too. Then what was wrong with having Jim for a room-mate? Clem pondered that for some time. Raw appeared to be the most damaging charge he could bring against the applicant, and that didnt seem to him an altogether sufficient indictment. Clem had never suspected himself of being a snob, but just now the possibility occurred to him abruptly and unpleasantly. To get away from the idea he reread Jims letter, and this time he read as much between the lines as in them.

It had taken courage to write that letter, he told himself. He would wager that Jim had put it off more than once and had made more than one false start. There was a humility all through it that was almost pathetic when one remembered that the writer wasnt much under six feet in height! Yes, and he wasnt so small other ways, Clem reflected. Considering that he had entered Alton without knowing a soul there, and had burst smack into the junior year, too, Jim had done pretty well. He was no pill, even if he did wear queer things and could be held accountable for the epidemic of loud-plaid mackinaws that had raged violently throughout the school in the late Winter! He had flivvered at football, to be sure, but he had won momentary fame as a skater, and he had organized the Maine-and-Vermont Club. That last feat proved pretty conclusively, thought Clem, that the fellow had something in him. After all, then, the worst you could say of him was that he was Clem searched diligently for the word he wanted and found it uncouth!

His thoughts went back to the afternoon when Jim Todd had first edged into view and to Marts almost impassioned utterances just previous thereto. Clem smiled. Mart had been hankering for new types and then Jim had walked in quite as if he had been awaiting his cue off-stage! Clems smile, though, was caused by the recollection that Mart hadnt been nearly so enthusiastic about new blood in the concrete meaning Jim Todd as he had been in new blood in the abstract! Mart had tolerated Jim, but had never derived much pleasure from the acquaintanceship. Old Mart was a heap more conservative than he had thought himself!

Then, thinking of Mart, Clem remembered how perfectly corking Jim had been during Marts illness. If he hadnt done a great deal to help it was only because there had been so little he could do. He had always been ready, always eager, always sympathetic. Yes, and there were those two days when poor old Mart had been so beastly sick, and Clem had worried himself miserable, or would have if Jim hadnt sort of stuck around and kept telling him that folks could be awfully ill with typhoid and yet pull out all hunky; that hed seen it moren once. Why, come to think of it, there had been three or four days when Jim had been with him half the time! How had he done it? He must have missed class more than once, and as for studying well, he just couldnt have studied!

Clem got up very suddenly, stuffed Jims letter in a pocket of his white flannels and stared savagely at an inoffensive palm in a gray stone jar. But though he looked at the palm he didnt seem to be addressing it when he spoke, for what he said was: Clem, youre a low-lived yellow pup! Get it?

CHAPTER V
A NEW TERM BEGINS

Clem returned to school the day before the beginning of the Fall term to find Alton looking sun-smitten and feeling exceedingly hot. The air, after the fresh, sweet breezes of the Berkshires, seemed stale and stifling, although when the cab had borne him past the business section of the town and residences surrounded by lawns and gardens and shaded by trees had taken the place of brick blocks there was a perceptible change for the better. It had been a dry summer and the campus showed it as Clem was hurried up Meadow street. The trees looked droopy and the grass parched. The buildings lined across the brow of the campus had a deserted appearance, with only here and there a window open to the faint stir of air. He almost wished he had waited until to-morrow.

The cab swerved to the right, proceeded a short distance along the gravel and stopped with a sudden setting of squeaking brakes in front of the first building. Clem helped the driver upstairs with the trunk, their feet echoing hollowly in the empty corridors. Number 15 was hot and close, and Clem sent the two windows banging up even before he paid the cabman. When the latter had gone clattering down again Clem removed his jacket and looked speculatively about him. The old room looked sort of homelike, after all, he concluded. He was glad that Mart had decided to leave his furnishings and pictures for the present. Jim Todds possessions up in Number 29, as Clem recalled them, were few and more useful than ornamental! Of course, Clem could have spread his own pictures and things about a bit more, but theyd probably have looked sort of thin. He opened the door of Marts closet and the drawers of his chiffonier and sighed as he saw what a deal of truck there was to be packed. However, he had the rest of the afternoon and most of the morning for his task. He routed a packing-case of Marts from the basement store-room, tugged it up to the room and started to work.

At five oclock he had made the disconcerting discovery that Marts clothing and books and small possessions, which had seemed to bulk so large before, wouldnt fill the big box more than three-quarters full, and had thrown himself into a chair to consider the fact and cool off when footsteps sounded below the window and then came nearer up the stairs. Then a voice sounded.

You up there, Clem?

Yes! Come on up!

Saw your window open, panted Lowell Woodruff as he came in, looking very warm, and thought you must be up here. How are you? The two shook hands, and Lowell subsided on the window-seat. Whats brought you back so early?

Clem pointed to the packing-case. Marts not coming back this fall, and Ive got the job of getting his stuff packed up and shipped home to him.

Oh! Yes, I heard he was off to the Continong, lucky brute! What price a winter on the Riviera, eh? Some guys get it soft! Whos coming in here with you?

A chap named Todd. You know him, I guess. Hes in our class.

Jim Todd? Sure I know him! And Id like to meet up with the silly ass, too. He got notice to report for early practice, and he hasnt shown hide nor hair.

Football? Clem laughed. I dont believe youll catch him, Woodie. Didnt you know he tried it last year and resigned?

Crazy nut! said Lowell disgustedly. Sure, I knew it, but thats got nothing to do with this year. Listen, that guy ought to be able to play football, Clem. He was all right for a fellow who didnt know anything about it, but he didnt get handled right, see? Hes queer. Stubborn, too, sort of. And Dolf Chapin wouldnt see it. You know Dolf. Thinks every ones got to dance when he fiddles. Todd got discouraged and told Dolf so and Dolf laughed at him and told him to quit his kidding. Bet you I could have kept Todd going and made him like it.

Why didnt you? asked Clem.

What chance? You know Dolf. Nice guy and all that, but no one else must say a word when hes around. An assistant coach here hasnt any say about anything. All he does is run errands and pick up things that the players throw down. I could see that Todd was getting tired and

You really think he could play? asked Clem incredulously.

Jim Todd? Sure he could! Why not? Put twenty pounds on him

How would you do it?

Feed him up, of course. Pshaw, fellows like him dont know what to eat. Three weeks at training table would put the tallow on him so you wouldnt know him!

Wasnt he at table last Fall?

No. He would have been if hed stuck a few days longer, I guess, but there were six or eight fellows who didnt come to the table until after the Hillsport game. That was another of Dolfs fool notions.

How many fellows have you got here now?

Fourteen. Billy Frost didnt show up; missed a steamer or something; and a couple more failed us. Your friend Todd was one. He didnt even write and tell us to chase ourselves, drat him! And we need another tackle like thunder.

Tackle! Clem whistled. Then he chuckled. Gosh, Woodie, I cant see Jim Todd playing tackle! Howd you happen to send him a call, anyway? Thought you only had the old players back for this early season stunt.

We needed tackles, like Im telling you, and both Johnny and I liked Todds looks last season, and there werent many fellows for the position. Doggone it, Clem, you dont realize that we lost most of the team last June!

How come? Billy Frost, Charley Levering, Fingal, Whittier

Oh, sure! And Pep Kinsey and Rolls Roice; but outside of Billy and Gus Fingal and Pep Kinsey theyre all new men, arent they? Sure, they played against Kenly, but that dont make em veterans! Weve got to build a whole new team pretty near, Clem. Thats why I want all the fellows I can get who happen to know a football from a chocolate sundae, and thats why Id like to see this here Jim Long-legged Todd and tell him what I think of him!

Stick around until to-morrow and youll get a chance. But I dont believe youll dent him any. I guess hes through with football, if he ever began.

Cant help that, old son. Weve got to have him; him and two or three others who quit last year for one reason or another; usually on account of trouble with the office. Im gunning for em. Say, Clem, you might help a bit, you know.

How?

Well, you and Todd are sort of thick, I suppose. Hed listen to you, wouldnt he?

Maybe. Meaning you want me to talk him around to going back? Any inducements?

How do you mean inducements? asked Lowell suspiciously.

Well, a banana royal at The Mirror, for instikance.

Sure! Just the same, its Johnny who ought to pay for it. It isnt my funeral whether any one plays or doesnt play, is it?

Well, youre manager, arent you? laughed Clem. Whats the manager for if not to do the dirty work and foot the bills? Besides, youll work that banana royal into the expense account somehow!

A fat chance! scoffed Lowell. Why, you cant buy a pair of shoe-laces without showing a voucher for it! Oh, well, Ill stand for your drink.





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