Ralph Barbour.

Right Tackle Todd





Really? asked Jim, surprised. I dont remember touching it. Im awfully sorry.

Oh, its all right, answered Clem, but do you know what I think? I think you must have been born in a filing cabinet!

Jim looked slightly blank, and Clem went out without elucidating.

After some two weeks of life in Number 15 with Jim, Clem caught the habit. He never attained to such perfection of orderliness as the others, and doubtless to the end of their days together Jim secretly considered Clem just a trifle careless about the room, but, just as evidence of how thoroughly he had fallen under Jims spell, he once, having reached the door on his way to chapel, returned the length of the room to place his slippers more perfectly in alignment under the head of the bed. It is doubtful, however, if Jim would have given him any credit for that. Jim would have kept his slippers, had he owned a pair, in his closet!

At the beginning of the term the two were not together a great deal outside of sleeping and study hours. Jim foregathered frequently with certain members of the Maine-and-Vermont Club and Clems acquaintances were not yet Jims. They might have been, for Clem suggested more than once that his room-mate accompany him on his social excursions. But Jim invariably had an excuse. The latter did meet two or three of Clems circle of intimates, but the meetings were only casual. The school year was a fortnight old when Jim first blossomed out in society.

The occasion was a birthday party given by Arthur Landorf to Arthur Landorf and some of Arthur Landorfs friends. Much assistance, however, was provided by Arts parents, for they had sent a box holding practically all the requirements of a birthday celebration, including a frosted cake with seventeen pink candles. The affair was held in Number 20 Lykes, which room Art shared with Larry Adams. Art was a hockey and baseball man and Larry a member of the second eleven. When Art invited Clem he added: And bring your room-mate, whatever his name is, if he cares to come. So Clem delivered the invitation to Jim and Jim started to find an excuse, as usual. But Clem was fed up by now.

Stop it! he said sternly. I dont give a continental if youve got a dinner engagement with Doctor Maitland himself and are down to address the faculty afterwards! Youre going with me to Arts blow-out and you might just as well make up your mind to it. Say, whats the colossal idea, anyhow? Arent my associates good enough for you?

Oh, I dont like to butt in on that crowd, said Jim. I aint their sort, Clem. I I havent got any parlor tricks.

Parlor tricks! Whos asking you to do tricks? You can sit on a chair or a bed or something without falling off, cant you? And you can say Thank you when some one shoves a hunk of cake at you, I suppose. Well, thats all you have to do, you big lummox.

We-ell, if you think I wont be in the way, said Jim dubiously, and this fellow really said to ask me

Oh, shut up, grumbled Clem.

Would I be asking you if he didnt? Thursday night, old son, and dont forget.

Well, maybe

Thatll be all, declared Clem. Its settled.

So Jim went along, somewhat subdued at first and hanging back when they reached Number 20 Lykes, from beyond the closed door of which sounds of merriment issued. But Clem herded him inside and shut off escape, and then Jim was shaking hands with Art and assuring him that he was glad to make his acquaintance. Whereupon, Art, not to be outdone, replied gravely: The pleasure is all mine, Mr. Todd, and Jim made his way through a sea of protruding legs to a seat in a far corner, fortunately not observing the smiles that followed his progress. To his relief, he presently discovered that he knew three of the party, at least to speak to: Lowell Woodruff and Hick Powers and Larry Adams. The gathering was presently completed by the arrival of Gus Fingal and George Imbrie, the latter editor-in-chief of the school weekly, The Doubleay. The two were amusingly unalike, for Imbries short, slim form reached only to the football captains shoulder, and whereas Guss big, square head was radiant with tow-colored hair that looked almost silvery in the light, Imbries was clad in very dark locks slicked smoothly away from a pale, intellectual forehead. Imbrie wore tortoise-shell cheaters, although it was rumored that they were only for effect and aided his sight no more than Harold Lloyds aided his! With the arrival of the last guests the proceedings opened officially. That is, Art turned off the electric light, switched aside a newspaper that had covered the birthday cake and applied a match to the seventeen little pink candles. Loud applause followed and then, at a signal from Larry Adams, Art tried to blow out the candles in one mighty breath and failed because Gus slammed him between the shoulders just then. After that the cake was cut with a clasp-knife for want of anything better and the feast began.

Some hosts might have kept the cake until toward the end of the repast, but Art said it didnt seem to him to matter whether you ate your cake first or last, just so you got it, and so it was devoured right along with the sandwiches and pickles and olives and ginger cookies and sweet chocolate and all the other delicacies. Of the gathering, however, four were out of luck, for although the football candidates at Alton were allowed more leeway in the matter of diet than before the days of Coach Cade, sweets were not in great favor, and so Jim, who, while not at the training table, was still bound in honor to observe training table rules, and Captain Gus and Powers and Adams had to be content with homeopathic portions of cake and to confine the balance of their menu to the sandwiches and olives. But there was plenty of tepid gingerale and they fared well enough.

Lowell Woodruff found a place next to Jim when the party reseated itself and did his best to be agreeable. Jim, however, still viewed him with suspicion and the conversation didnt become animated, and after a while Lowell gave up and turned to his neighbor on the other side. On the whole, Jim didnt have a very happy time at that party. Clem was separated from him by the width of the room and hidden for the most of the time by the table, and Jim felt rather out of it. He was glad when Gus Fingals departure broke up the gathering. He tried to tell his host politely that he had enjoyed his party, but was saved from the untruth when one of the others pushed him outside. In the jostling and confusion he got away without a word to Art. Returning to the next dormitory, Clem did all the talking. Perhaps it didnt occur to him to ask if Jim had had a good time. At all events, he didnt ask, and Jim was glad of it. Jim was a poor liar, and knew it.

That ended Jims social activities for some time. There were no more birthday parties among Clems friends, but Clem tried on several occasions to get Jim to accompany him on visits to other rooms, and Jim thanked him and declined firmly. Clem called him a hermit.

Following the Lorimer game Jims services were called on daily. Sometimes he got into the scrimmage for only a handful of minutes, infrequently he worked through a whole period. He had survived the second and last cut and had taken his place on the squad as a second-string tackle. There was even the possibility, indeed the probability, of getting into the Kenly Hall game, for the roster of tackles included only three others: Roice, Sawyer and Mulford. Jim was the least experienced of the lot, and at this stage he knew perfectly well that so far as playing ability went he was a bad fourth. But he had hopes of becoming as good as Mulford, at least. In more optimistic moments he even saw himself rivaling Willard Sawyer, who was the present incumbent of the right tackle position. What he couldnt imagine was ever equaling Roice. Rolls was almost the best lineman on the team. Only Captain Fingal was graded above him by popular opinion.

Jim had not only held the weight he had brought back with him but had added three pounds to it, and while, later on, he frequently dropped those three during a hard afternoon, he always found them again. Had Jim been more experienced he might well have wondered sometimes at being retained on the squad. He had played football but three weeks or so before the present season and had not during those three weeks shown much ability. He was at least six pounds lighter than the position called for, since Alton always presented a heavy line. In general appearance, he did not suggest the ideal tackle. But Jim had seen little football and so it didnt occur to him that there was anything unusual in his choice as a tackle. Not a few amateur critics, however, declared that Todd might be end material but would never be of any value as a tackle. He didnt have enough weight, they said, and what he had wasnt distributed properly. Besides, who was he, anyway, and what had he ever done to get where he was?

But Coach Cade wasnt making a very great mistake. If Jim was somewhat lacking in weight he was nine pounds lighter than Rolls Roice, for instance he possessed two other of the necessary qualifications of a good tackle, and might later show that he had a third. Weight he lacked, mental ability he had not shown, but physical speed and stamina he did have. He was fast developing into the speediest candidate for his position, and Coach Cade, who held speed in the deepest reverence, was ready to forgive him many shortcomings. Also, Jim had hard muscles, muscles developed in the open air and at a greater variety of strenuous tasks than most boys know, and he had endurance. You might tire Jim, but you couldnt tire him out. At least, no one ever had. Jims father could tell you of walking sixty miles between daybreak and sundown in the old days of logging in Maine; and Jim looked a whole lot like his father! Coach Cade couldnt know of the boys stamina yet, but he did suspect it, and as time went on he was able to indulge in not a little self-gratulation, which is pleasant even to a football coach.

Once having become thoroughly interested in the game, Jim learned about twice as fast as he had before. At first he accepted instruction without giving it much thought. Now he sought the reason for everything he was taught, found it and understood what he was doing and why. Jim liked to know the logic of what he undertook. If he couldnt discover a reason for doing a thing he didnt do it unless some one forced him to. Then he did it only half-heartedly. His rules book helped him a lot. There were books that would have explained many things to him and saved him much thought, but he didnt know of them; and studying things out for himself doubtless made him remember them better. He amused Clem about this time I am speaking of the week between the Lorimer and Southport games by buying a football of his own and keeping it on the closet shelf. Several times daily he would take it down and handle it; drop it on the floor and catch it as it rebounded, place it on the floor and pick it up with one hand, his long fingers wrapping themselves about the end like as Clem phrased it a starfish on a quahog. Sometimes Clem would look up to find Jim with the ball poised in his right hand as if he meant to hurl it straight through the window, and always when he studied his rules book the brown leather spheroid was in his lap. Clem told him one evening, in mild protest, that he was sickening.

You fondle that silly thing like it was a baby! Whats the idea, Jim?

Just want to to get used to it, replied Jim. Want to know what I can do with it. You see, shaped like it is, you cant handle it just like you can a round ball, Clem.

My word! Think of that! And you discovered that all by yourself, too, didnt you?

Shut up, said Jim, grinning. Say, just stand over there and toss me a few, will you?

Toss you No, Ill be switched if Im going to turn this room into a gridiron. First thing I know youll be moving the furniture out and kicking the thing around!

But he did toss the ball to Jim in the end, and Jim caught it various ways, studying each way, while Clem looked on and waited for the return of the ball with the expression of one humoring a lunatic. So far as Clem ever discovered that ball was never taken out of Number 15, until it went out for good, but it certainly saw a lot of handling there!

The Thursday before the Southport game Jim played a full fifteen minutes against the second team, and busy, strenuous minutes they were. He had been tried at left tackle and right tackle, and had discovered no preference, but to-day he went in between Smith, substituting Captain Fingal, and Borden, the regular right end. There had already been a fifteen-minute scrimmage with the scrubs, in which the big team had scored a solitary touchdown, and now the scrubs were aching for vengeance. Jim had his hands very full with the opposing guard when the first team had the ball, for the guard played wide and Jim had a big stretch of line to cover. But he was fast, and it soon developed that plays sent through the right of its own line were netting the first team more than those on the other side. Jim usually beat his opponent on starting, and he came up hard, with his back straight and a lot of power in his charge. He made mistakes still and was called down half a dozen times for one thing or another. But even the most experienced fared not much better that day. Twice Jim spilled a runner behind the line once, alas, receiving as his reward harsh words because he should have gone for the interference instead and he tackled well, using his body and not relying on his arms alone. On the whole, while he made no spectacular plays that afternoon, Jim came out of the fifteen-minute session with his stock higher than it had been, and when the Alton paper published the days line-up on Saturday morning, the sixth line read: Sawyer or Todd. But then, a hard game was not looked for and Coach Cade had planned to use several substitutes at the start. As it turned out, Jim didnt get in until the third period was half over and the game was laid safely away, the score 26 to 9. But he showed up rather well while he played, which was until he got a wrenched knee a scant three minutes before the end, and emerged with a nickname. When he came off, limping, some sympathetic freshman shouted, Atta boy, Slim! And Slim Todd it was thereafter.

CHAPTER IX
EXPERTS IN CONFERENCE

There was no work on Monday for those who had taken part in the Southport game. Even Jim, although he had contributed but some fifteen minutes of his time to the contest, was excused. The victory had been an easy one, but it had nevertheless cost Alton heavily, since four of the first and second-string men had met with injuries. Only Crumb had fared seriously, however, and not for several days was the full extent of his injury known to the school at large. Then it was learned that he had fractured some bone with an unpronounceable name, located in his left leg, and would be out of the game for some time. In fact, whether he could get around again in time for the Kenly game was problematic. This news was received with consternation, for Crumb had shown himself the best ground-gainer in the Gray-and-Gold backfield, the only one, indeed, who could be relied on for heavy line-smashes to produce short but certain gains. Weight, speed and fight made him an ideal full-back, and his loss, even if it proved only temporary, was going to be keenly felt. Tennyson, who must fill his shoes, was twelve pounds lighter and was an almost unknown quantity as yet. He had shown ability in practice and in the first two games, but had not played against Lorimer, nor against Southport until the last quarter was well along. However well he might develop, it seemed certain that he would never show either the power or the ding-dong fighting spirit that had made Tom Crumbs work notable.

Jims knee responded readily to treatment, and he could have stood the gaff on Monday had he been allowed to, which he wasnt. All he could do was go to the field and watch the first team substitutes practice and, later, get mauled about by the second. The only incident of interest to Jim occurred when Manager Woodruff found him on the stand and announced: Todd, youre to join the training table to-night.

Jim blinked and considered. Then, Well, I dont know, Woodruff, he said slowly. I guess Id just as lief not.

You what? gasped Lowell.

Well, you see Im getting on right well where I am, and Im sort of used to the fellows.

Youre a queer guy, said Lowell, feelingly. Dont you know that any other fellow would be tickled to death to be taken on?

Jim pondered that. No, I didnt know, he acknowledged finally. Anyhow, I dont really care two cents about it, and if theres some one else that would like it

Cant be done, Todd, Lowell grinned. Mr. Cades set his heart on you.

He says Im to go? asked Jim with more animation.

He sure does. Thems his orders, Todd. Show up this evening, eh?

Of course. I didnt quite understand. Much obliged.

Quite welcome. Say, youre getting along pretty well, arent you. Hows the ankle, by the way?

Ankle? Oh, it was my knee. Its all right. Say, I guess maybe I acted sort of sour the other night.

What night was that? asked Lowell.

Up in that fellows room. Whats his name? The fellow who had the birthday cake. Yes, Landorf. Well, I guess I seemed like I didnt want to talk.

Why, yes, I did get some such impression, Todd, but it was your say. If I didnt want to talk, I wouldnt. But I always do!

Well, it was like this. Jim frowned slightly in the effort to explain. I sort of thought you were kidding me.

Kidding you?

Yes, before that. Right along. You were always sort of telling me that I was getting on great, and things like that.

Well, Great Scott, so you were!

Maybe I was. I didnt know. It didnt seem so to me, anyhow. Seemed to me I was pretty stupid. And I thought you were sort of having a joke with me. I didnt mind, exactly, only Well, maybe I did mind a little.

But I wasnt joking, Todd. I look here, Ill be honest. Remember how you up and flew the coop last Fall? That was Dolf Chapins fault. You needed a bit of patting on the back and encouragement to make you stick. He didnt see it. So you got it into your head that nobody loved you and your pie was all crust. Well, I didnt want it to happen again like that this year. Why, bless your dear heart, sonny, Ive watched you the way a fond mother watches her favorite kid. Every time Ive seen you sitting down there on the bench looking kind of lonesome Ive had heart failure. I wanted to go over and tell you funny stories and sing songs and do tricks to bring the light of happiness back to your sad eyes! I dare say I sounded like a silly ass sometimes when I tried to cheer you up, but that was because you arent what Id call responsive, Todd, and I always had the feeling that you thought I was a blamed pest. You know, anything like that does kind of take the zest from a chaps conversation!

Jim was smiling, and as Lowell paused he chuckled and said: Gosh, I thought all the time that you thought I was rotten and didnt know it, and were just having fun seeing how much Id swallow! Say, I hope youll excuse me, Woodruff.

Sure will! Anyway, I fancy it was my well method of approach that was at fault. I was so gol-derned anxious to make you one of our happy little family so you wouldnt jump the traces again that well, I guess I was too anxious! Believe me, though, I wasnt making fun of you, Todd. Wouldnt have had a chance, anyway. Why, hang it, youve made more progress than any geezer in the bunch! You didnt know much football, when you come right down to it, and you learned. Now you know more than a lot of the fellows who have been playing for four or five years.

Me? ejaculated Jim. He looked at Lowell with something of the old suspicion. But the manager met his eyes squarely and nodded emphatically.

You, Todd! Why, youre coming ahead so fast that youve got Johnny Cade blinking. I could tell you something that would make you open your eyes, but I mustnt. Well, Ive got to be getting back down there and earning my princely wage. Dont forget to show up at training table to-night. Im responsible for you.

I wont. And say, Im glad you really think Im getting on. It was right hard at first to get the hang of things. Maybe I aint got the hang of em yet, but I guess Im some better.

Rather! Thats speaking very mildly, too. See you later!

Being only human, Jim sat there and basked in the sunshine of Lowells praise for some time. He had worked hard and faithfully and until now he had never been assured that he had really won success. Of course, Clem had spoken encouragingly many times, but Clem was a friend and no football man and maybe didnt know. Lowell Woodruff was different. Lowell knew football and football players and he was on the inside. Jim hugged his knees and felt that life was a very satisfactory affair. And then, when practice was over, he followed the players back to the gymnasium, realized that he had no reason for going inside and so wandered across the campus and through State street and at the next corner met with an encounter that caused him to reconsider his opinion of life.





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