Ralph Barbour.

Right Tackle Todd





Jim blinked and shook his head. No, Clem. Why?

Well, just look at it, will you? The drawer held underwear, stockings, a blue flannel shirt, a candy box with a piece of red Christmas ribbon trailing from it, a pair of discarded garters; possibly other things as well, but Jims attention was held by the number of undergarments in sight and the general disorder of the drawers contents. He looked inquiringly at Clem.

Nice mess, eh? asked Clem indignantly. Some ones been poking around in here. Look at that box. It was tied with that ribbon. Someone opened it and didnt do it up again.

Well, I guess Im the only one who could have done it if you didnt, said Jim slowly, and Ive never been near anything of yours, Clem. So it looks

Of course you didnt do it, answered Clem. I neednt have asked you, only I was so so blamed mad

Youre sure you didnt leave the box untied?

Me? Why, theres nothing in the box but a lot of old gimcracks he removed the lid impatiently for Jims benefit and I havent had it open since I put it in there. Besides, hang it all, Jim, you know I wouldnt leave this drawer looking like that!

Jim wasnt convinced of it, but he nodded agreement. Who do you suppose he began. Then he asked quickly; Anything missing?

Missing? Why, no, I guess not. Gosh, theres nothing here any one would want! He had begun putting the things in order again, folding the garments and piling them neatly back in place. He really seemed more disturbed by the disorder of things than by the fact that some person had intruded. Well just have to lock the door when we go out, Jim. Ive been here three years and this is the first time Ive had anything of mine troubled.

Suppose some one did it for a joke? asked Jim.

Mighty poor joke, Clem grumbled. Any one could come in here that wanted to when were both out, but I dont see why theyd want to muss my drawer all up.

When did you look in here last, Clem?

This morning. I got a pair of socks out. It was all right then. Something rattled under his hand as he spoke, and he picked up a steel key-ring with five keys attached. If folks are going to get fresh this way, he muttered, Id better put these somewhere He stopped, stared for an instant at the keys and then swung around and strode to the closet. From the shelf he lowered the black suit-case. In a moment he had unlocked it and thrown the lid back. Jim, watching over his shoulder, spoke relievedly.

Its there, he said.

But Clem had the folded envelope in his hand, and it was empty! He looked blankly over his shoulder. Well, what do you know! he ejaculated. Jim shook his head.

Sure it was there, Clem?

Great Scott, you saw me put it there, didnt you? Night before last, or night Gosh, that makes me sore!

How much was in the envelope? asked Jim.

Twenty-seven no, twenty-two dollars.

I lent you five. That left a two-dollar bill and four five-dollar gold-pieces. Oh, I dont care such an awful lot about the money, but its rotten to know that theres a thief in the dormitory! Why, it may be

It might have been some one from one of the other halls, said Jim. Or maybe a sneak-thief from outside.

Oh, it might be any one! Clem slammed the bag shut and tossed it back to the shelf. He was after those keys, whoever he was, and thats the reason he messed everything up so. But how did he know where they were, eh? The other drawers are just as I left them. How about yours? Better have a look.

I dont think theyve been touched, Jim reported. Guess whoever was in here came while we were both out this afternoon. How long were you gone?

I havent been here since about half-past two, until just now. I was over at Upton for an hour or more. Then Carl Stevens and I went downtown. What times it now? Twenty past five? Well, thats nearly three hours. When were you up last?

Just before practice. About five to three, I guess.

Clem, hands in pockets, stared at the floor and then flung himself into a chair. Well, Im going to report it. Something will have to be done if a fellow cant leave his room door unlocked. I dont care a hang about the money, Jim, but Id certainly like to catch the sneak that got it!

Jim, still standing, nodded. Come to think of it, Clem, it wouldnt be hard for a fellow to walk in the Meadow street gate and go through a dozen rooms if he found em empty. All hed have to do would be pretend that he was looking for some fellow and didnt know where he lived, sort of.

The way you looked for Dolf Chapin last year, said Clem, managing a brief smile. Still, hed have to get past Mr. Tarbot, and his door is nearly always open and looks right into the corridor down there.

Yes, but I guess he isnt always in, said Jim. And even if he saw some one he mightnt know he wasnt one of the fellows from another hall. Gosh, I guess he cant know more than four hundred fellows by sight!

No, but theres never been any stealing like that since Ive been here, objected Clem. Folks dont come on the campus unless theyve got business; fellows from the pressers or the laundry or and even they arent supposed to come upstairs.

They do it, though.

Yes, I know, but Now think a minute, Jim. It must have taken a good five minutes to find the keys in that drawer and you can see by the way things were left that he must have had to hunt for them and get the suit-case down and unlock it and lock it and put the keys back and everything. An outsider wouldnt dare take the risk, Jim. Howd he know that one of us wouldnt walk in on him?

Yes, it would be risky, Jim owned somewhat unwillingly.

It sure would! No, sir, the guy that pulled this trick knew that we were both out. I dare say he watched us go. Then he had all the time in the world.

Yes, but if he had so much time why did he pull things around so in the drawer? Or why didnt he fix them back the way he found them? He might have known that youd notice and get suspicious and miss the money.

Probably didnt think about that. Oh, well, Ive got to go down and see Old Tarbox. Come along and give your evidence, old son. He will ask a lot of questions, I suppose.

Maybe you could make it clearer if you went alone.

Well, hed want to question you anyway, sooner or later. Come on.

So Jim went. Mr. Tarbot, whose suite of study, bedroom and bath was the first on the right from the dormitory entrance, bade them enter when Clem had knocked on the half-open door and the two filed in. The instructor was reading in a deep chair set close to a window, but at sight of Jim he suddenly sat up straight. Ive been watching for you, Todd, he announced briskly. Some one telephoned about ten minutes ago from the Police Station. I didnt understand who he was. One of the officers, I fancy. He said I was to ask you to come over there directly you got in. He didnt say what was wanted. I hope your conscience is clear, my boy. Mr. Tarbot smiled to show that he was joking, but behind the smile one might have detected anxiety. Jim stared incredulously for an instant. Then his face clouded suddenly.

Ill go right away, sir, he replied.

Mr. Tarbot nodded and picked up his book again. Clem, his mission forgotten for the moment, followed Jim to the corridor. What the dickens do you suppose they want? he asked with lively curiosity. Jim shook his head. Well, Ill go along and see you through, chuckled Clem. Nothing like having a friend at court, old son!

Jim stopped at the bottom of the steps and shook his head again. You neednt come, Clem, he said. Youd better see Tarbot about

Oh, that can wait. This is a lot more exciting. Go? You bet Ill go. Why, I may have to bail you out!

After an instant of indecision Jim went on and Clem fell in beside him, chattering animatedly to apparently deaf ears. Jim looked troubled, and by the time they were half-way toward the main gate Clem noted the fact and, after a second puzzled glance at his companion, said: Look here, old son, if youd really rather I didnt go along I wont.

Jim shook his head once more. No, you might as well come, I guess. If its what I think it is

What do you think it is? asked Clem when the other paused.

Webb, said Jim after a moment. The fellow I lent the money to. Maybe he didnt go away, like he said he would, and maybe hes got in trouble with the police.

Clem whistled expressively. Bet you thats just it! he murmured. I didnt want to say so, Jim, but I was absolutely certain that was he I saw that day on West street.

Jim nodded and they crossed Academy street in silence and went into State. Know where it is? asked Jim presently. The police place, I mean.

Yes, turn to the left on West. Its about four blocks over and one through. Opposite the Odd Fellows building. Say, if they want money to let him out, Jim, were in a mess, eh?

Once more Jim nodded affirmatively. After that conversation was virtually prohibited by the fact that the home-seeking throngs on the busy streets made it nearly impossible for the two boys to stay together. After a five-minute hurried walk they reached the Police Station, an old red-brick building with an entrance of granite steps and rusty iron-railings much too large for the small, square edifice. Past the doorway, Jim paused in doubt, but Clem, with a familiarity that might have seemed suspicious to one of uncharitable mind, straightway guided him to the right and into a scantily furnished apartment occupied principally by a broad oak railing, a large, flat-topped desk and a large red-faced man in a blue uniform. There were some minor furnishings too, such as a few chairs, a telephone, three framed pictures and a wobbly costumer which sagged sidewise under the weight of a policemans overcoat.

The big man behind the desk was proclaimed a sergeant by the insignia on his sleeve and the letters on the hat that perched rakishly on the back of his bristly head. There was a cigar in one corner of his mouth, a much-chewed, down-at-the-side cigar that gave off rank fumes of gray smoke and caused the sergeant to close one eye as he viewed the arrivals.

My name, announced Jim in a voice so fraught with guilt that the sergeant would have been entirely justified in locking him up instantly, is Todd. They said over at school that some one wanted to see me here about something.

Oh, yes! Sure, young feller. Say, just step in the next room, will you? Thats the door. The Captains in there and hell tend to you. Sure, you can go in, too, if you want. The latter part of the invitation was to Clem, who had hesitated to follow his companion. So Clem trod closely on the heels of Jim, and they passed through a heavy door and found themselves in a second room that was much like the first. Here, though, there was a brilliantly red carpet on the floor, the desk was a roll-top, there was an inhospitable looking leather couch along one wall and the single occupant, instead of being large and red of countenance, was tall and lean, with a military carriage and a healthily tanned face.

Todd, eh? he asked tersely. Sit down, please. This gentleman a friend of yours? I see. Very well. I have a question or two to ask, Mr. Todd. Know a man who calls himself James Webster?

No, sir. Relief struggled with doubt in Jims face.

Didnt think you did, because I guess that isnt the fellows right name. Know any one with a name like that?

I know a man whose name is Webb, faltered Jim. His first name, I mean.

Webb, eh? Whats his last name?

Jims hesitation was pronounced, but he finally answered, Todd, sir.

Clem shot a quick, startled look at Jim. Jim didnt meet it. He was staring anxiously at the police captain.

Webb Todd? I see. Relative of yours?

Cousin; sort of. His mother and my mother were half-sisters.

Not exactly a cousin, then, my boy. Known him long?

Yes, sir, ever since I can remember. Up in Maine. He lived right near us for a good while.

Seen him lately?

Yes, sir, twice. Once I met him on the street and the next time he came to our room in Haylow Hall. Is has he been arrested?

The Captain nodded. Yes, we took him in charge about four oclock. Hes been loafing around town for several days. He will be up in court in the morning charged with vagrancy. I dare say hell get off with a suspended sentence if he agrees to quit town.

Jim breathed loudly with relief.

Only thing puzzles us, continued the Captain, is where he got what we took off him. He opened a drawer at his side and took out a small parcel. Ever lend him money, Mr. Todd?

Yes, sir.

How much money?

Jim hesitated again. Eight dollars and a half, he answered.

That all? Jim nodded. Havent forgotten any? Jim shook his head. Funny, said the Captain. He opened the parcel, displaying a soiled envelope with a letter showing beyond its torn edge, a cheap-pocket knife and an assortment of coins. Three of the coins glittered brightly in the light from the near-by window. This fellow had sixteen dollars and forty-one cents when we searched him. Fifteen dollars was in five-dollar gold coins. We asked him where he got them. He said the Captain eyed Jim intently you gave them to him.

There was a moments silence. Jim was still staring wide-eyed at the officer. Clem was staring fascinatedly at the three gold coins. Then the Captains voice came again. Of course, if you didnt give them to him he probably stole them and itll be up to us to find out where. It probably wont be hard, for gold-pieces are scarce and folks who have them miss them if they disappear. I didnt believe the fellows statement, because it didnt seem likely to me that any of you fellows at the school would have so much money on hand. Judging from the condition he was in when we took charge of him, he must have had considerably more to start with. Anyhow, thats his story. Says he was looking for work and was strapped and asked you for a loan and you came across with twenty dollars in five dollar coins. He was lying, eh?

Silence again. Clems gaze was on Jim. Jims was on the bright red carpet. Jim moistened his lips with his tongue and looked again at the questioner. He shook his head.

No, sir, he wasnt lying, he said evenly. I had forgotten.

Oh, youd forgotten. The Captains gaze narrowed. Its a bad idea to forget things, Todd, when its the police who want to know, he went on dryly. You did give him the money, did you? How much?

Twenty-two dollars the last time, sir.

To-day? Jim nodded. Part gold, was it?

Four five-dollar gold-pieces and a two dollar bill, replied Jim.

Quite a lot of money for you to have, wasnt it?

Yes, sir.

The Captain stared at Jim a moment longer. Then his gaze shifted to the collection of coins at his elbow. He wrapped the paper about them again and tossed the packet back in the drawer. Well, all right, he said finally. He says you did and you say you did, and so I guess that settles it. Thats all, Mr. Todd. Much obliged to you.

He wont be sent to jail, will he? asked Jim.

Dont believe so. He ought to be, for he looks to me like a bad egg. If you like to come over to-morrow about nine-thirty and speak to the Judge, Ill fix it for you. You might say a good word for the man if youve known him so long.

Id like to, answered Jim gratefully. Then, hesitantly, Could I see him, please, sir?

I guess so. He pressed a button on the edge of the desk and, when an elderly man in a police uniform appeared, waved toward Jim. This gentleman wants to see the nut that was brought in this afternoon; Websters the name hes entered under. Just show him down, Grogan.

Jim followed the turnkey without a glance toward Clem.

Ten minutes later Jim emerged from the station. Clem had not waited. Jim made his way back to school alone, hurrying at times, since the six oclock whistle had long since blown, and at other times slowing to a pace that indicated that his thoughts were concerned with a subject more weighty than supper.

CHAPTER XIII
MR. WEBB TODD

Although Jim went directly back to Number 15 after his delayed supper he did not find Clem there. Perhaps, he thought, Clem had been there and, not finding him, had gone to look for him. In a way Jim was not sorry, for the explanation that was Clems due wasnt going to be easy to make. He prepared to write a letter to his father, but, with pen hovering above paper, his thoughts went back to his talk with Webb and the letter was forgotten.

Webb had been so glad to see him that Jims anger had softened instantly, even though the former had shown no signs of contrition. He had been perfectly frank. Leaning against the sill of a barred window at one end of the corridor that extended along the front of the cells, Webb had explained everything in matter-of-fact fashion. After he had got that five dollars from Jim he had changed his mind about going to Norwalk just then. He didnt see any sense in working so long as he had money. But yesterday the money had given out and in the afternoon he had gone to Haylow to ask for another loan. If he had got it he would have jumped the train at four and gone to Norwalk. Anyway, he had really meant to then. But no one had answered his knock, and he had gone in. He had looked around a bit and then sat down, intending to wait for Jims return. It wasnt until then that the idea of taking Clems money had occurred to him.

When he had called there before and Jim had gone back into the room to ask Clem for the loan Webb had watched and listened through a crack in the door, for Jim had not quite closed it. He had seen Clem take the bunch of keys from the drawer and go to the closet. After that the action had been outside his range of vision, but his ears had supplied him with what his eyes had missed. So yesterday it had been easy enough. He had had trouble finding the keys, for they had become tucked into a fold of a garment, but after he had them what followed was fair sailing. A few minutes later, opening the door cautiously on an empty corridor, he had walked away again and down the stairs. Near the front door he had seen, both on entering and leaving, a funny-looking sketch with a trick mustache readin a book, but he didnt pay no attention to me, kid. He went out the gate to Meadow street and returned to the village. There he visited a lunch-room and had a good feed, and it was while he was standing harmlessly in front of it that a cop come along and pinched me.

Webb had seemed neither proud nor ashamed nor greatly concerned with his present plight. He had heard that the Judge here was a good guy, and they didnt have anything on him, anyway, because they couldnt send a guy up for vagrancy when he had more than fifteen dollars in his pocket and was tryin hard to find a job. Webb had winked there.

But suppose they found out youd stolen that money, Webb?

How could they? I told em you gave it to me. All you got to do is tell em the same story, kid.

That would make me a thief, Webb.

How would it? Ill be out o here to-morrow, and all you got to do is tell that guy the facts. Say, aint they asked you about it yet? Jim nodded. Well, what did you tell em?

That I gave it to you lent it to you this afternoon.

Sure! Well, thats all right, aint it? They cant do nothin to me if you stick to that, kid!

If I do stick to it, Webb, youve got to make me a promise and keep it.

Sure I will! You know me, kid. You and me was always the best o pals, and I aint the kind of a guy to go back on my friends. Whats it you want me to do?

I want you to leave here on the first train after they let you go, Webb, and find a job and stick to it. You know mighty well this way of living aint going to get you anywhere, Webb. Gosh, when I was a kid I thought you were just about the finest fellow in the world! You were always mighty good to me, Webb, and I just cant forget it. I want you should quit this business and be like you used to be. You can if youll try, Webb, I know you can!

Sure! Webb Todds voice had been a little husky. Youre dead right, too, kid. This is a rotten life, and I know it. But He had sort of run down there. After a moment he said almost wistfully: Say, kid, I wasnt a bad sort back in the old days, was I? You and me had some swell times, didnt we? Remember the time the old red sow got out and we was chasin it and it ran in the kitchen and your ma was making bread and the old sow came out with the pan o dough on her head?

Yes, and I remember the time I fell between the logs in Beechers Cove and you dived in and got me out, Webb.

Sure. Webb had nodded reminiscently. You come near kicking in that time, kid. After a moments silence Jim had asked:

Well, will you do it, Webb?

Ill try, kid.

You mean it? You promise me youll really try, Webb? Try as hard as you know how?

Yeah, Ill try hard. I dont know as Ill make it, kid. A guy gets sort o used to doin without a job after a while. It aint so hard, kid. If youve got a good spiel you wont never starve. Theres a lot of mushy folks in the world. Youd be surprised how easy they fall for a hard-luck steer, kid.





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