SUMNER CHOOSES A SUCCESSOR

ON the following Tuesday—the day of the imposing appearance before the
school of President John Smith—Hardie, having at last secured his
playing clothes, presented himself on the field. His arrival aroused no
very flattering comment, partly because nothing in particular was
expected from him, partly because of the company in which he came.
Saturday’s disappointment had caused a flurry of energy on the part of
the football leaders, and the school had been sifted anew for material.
As a result Fat Bumpus was strained out, and little McDowell, who,
though lithe and sinewy as an alley tomcat, and eager as a hound tugging
at the leash, was manifestly below the standard of weight. He came via
the third team, on which he had distinguished himself in the game with
Wood’s third, played on the Saturday on which the first had failed so
conspicuously at Suffolk. These three, Bumpus the fat, McDowell the
small, and Hardie the unpretending, formed the last group of recruits
available to reënforce the battle line of Westcott’s.

The side-line comments would have been sufficient to put all three to
speedy flight, if the contemptuous words had reached their ears. Stover,
the ball player, stood with Hargraves who didn’t like football and
Reeves whose forte was dancing and “fussing,” and made very merry over
the faults of their schoolmates, dwelling with unwearied if not
brilliant wit on the appearance of the newcomers, and enjoying the
audience of gaping small boys who surrounded them.

“They ought to tie a string to it and give Fatty the end,” said Stover,
as Bumpus groped sprawling after the ball which Harrison had rolled
toward him. “It’s cruelty to animals to make him root around like that.”

“The best way would be to put him sideways in the line on his hands and
knees. No one could get past him then,” remarked Reeves.

“They’d have to call time to get him up again.”

“Did you see that?” broke in Hargraves. “Hardie got the ball at the
first try!”

“It must have been an accident; he hasn’t sand enough in him to do it
purposely.” This was Stover’s opinion.

A furious but futile charge on the part of Marshall, a clumsy but
energetic hanger-on of the second, drew the fire of the trio. “That’s
the spirit!” chuckled Hargraves. “Dig up the dirt with your face, my
boy! Football is the game!”

“There goes Mac!” cried a shrill voice close at hand.

“McDowell the infant wonder,” commented Stover, as the boy dropped
sharply and cleanly on the ball, falling along knee, thigh, and hip, in
one continuous and perfectly easy motion.

“What’s the sense in wasting time on a kid like him?” muttered Reeves.
“Firman of Newbury would carry half a dozen of him on his back.”

The coach evidently had his own views as to the usefulness of McDowell,
for he made the boy repeat his performance several times to show the
less skilful how the trick should be done. Meantime Talbot, who was
catching punts, drew over near the criticising group, and the comments
became less audible. As regards side-line ridicule, Talbot held forcible
opinions which he had no hesitation in expressing nor reluctance to
defend. The trio moved farther down the line, and their wit flowed anew.

[Illustration: “THEY OUGHT TO TIE A STRING TO IT AND GIVE FATTY THE
END.”]

All three of the newcomers got into the line-up of the second that
afternoon. Bumpus thrashed about with more uproar than success at guard,
while McDowell and Hardie were placed at right end and right tackle
respectively. Harrison gave them a general exhortation to “play sharp
now,” and Talbot urged Hardie in specific terms to “get right into
Dunn.”

“You can manage him all right, if you stand right up to him,” he said.
“Forget everything but the play!”

Hardie nodded gratefully. He felt no fear, nor was he by any means new
to football, but he was conscious that the school did not expect much of
him, and the personal interest of an important fellow like Talbot was,
therefore, especially gratifying. In the big athletic school from which
he had come to Boston, he had learned to think modestly of his prowess.
While he had made his class eleven there, the school team lay beyond all
reasonable hope. It was not easy for him to think of himself as ‘varsity
material, even at Westcott’s!

Talbot kicked off, the ball sailing over Roger’s head down into
McDowell’s territory. Lingering long enough to see the boy gather in the
ball and tuck it safely under his arm, Hardie ran forward at
three-fourths speed to take the first onset of the school linesmen and
permit Mac to slip by. The first comer was Dunn, who caromed off Roger’s
shoulder without so much as touching the runner. Eaton, the left tackle
of the first, McDowell dodged by an abrupt stop and a dart outside; and
beyond Eaton again, Hardie was at his side to take Channing, the right
guard. The two disentangled themselves and followed after as McDowell
zigzagged on, emerging from between Lowe’s hands and leaving Talbot on
the ground behind him. Sumner, the quarter-back, at last drove him
outside at the forty-yard line.

The coach carried the ball in and put it down for the scrimmage, first
giving the little end a deserved compliment, and then scoring the first
severely for careless tackling. The glory of the second faded quickly.
The quarter fumbled and lost a yard. Bumpus let Eaton through on the
waiting half; the third down was followed by a feeble punt which Sumner
ran back twenty yards. Then came a quick reversal. The first had the men
and the signals. The ball was pushed rapidly through the centre, through
the right side, again through the centre and again through right. At a
new signal Hardie caught a change of expression in Dunn’s face, and knew
that his own turn had come.

“Look out, Mac!” he shouted, and leaped for his opening with the first
movement of the ball. Dunn held him but an instant; with a side buffet
of the open hand the new tackle slipped by, ruined the interference, and
drove the convoy straight into Mac’s sure grip.

“This feels like it again,” Roger said to himself as he took his place
once more. “They’re not up to a Hillbury class team after all.”

“Whose fault was that?” demanded the coach.

“Mine!” said Talbot, shortly.

Hardie looked in wonder over at the friendly half-back. It wasn’t
Talbot’s fault, or at least not primarily. Dunn had failed to block his
man, Talbot only to make his protection wholly effective—a difficult
task at best. The essential weakness lay with Dunn.

“Tackle and end must take care of the opposing tackle,” said the coach.
“Get down in front of him, Dunn, spread your elbows, dive into him with
your shoulder, but _hold him_—you hear?”

“He started before the ball was snapped,” pleaded Dunn.

“Shut up! Play the game!” commanded Talbot. “I said it was my fault.”

They bucked the centre once more, by way of variety, and then made
another trial of the left side. Horr went ahead to push out the end, and
Talbot carried the ball. This time Dunn made frantic efforts to hold his
man by use of body and arms without much regard for the rules of the
game; but Hardie, keeping him at arm’s length, made a dash at the runner
that staggered him, and the line half-back laid him low. At the third
attempt Dunn and Eaton together contrived to box the second tackle, and
the play went through, over the line half-back.

Mr. Adams, who feared overdoing at the beginning of the season, cut into
the coach’s programme after the first had made two touch-downs, and put
an end to the practice. Bumpus limped in like an exhausted dray-horse,
sweating at every pore. Stover and Hargraves hailed him as he crossed
the road to the dressing rooms.

“How’d you like it, Bump?” asked Stover. “You look warm.”

“You played a bully game,” said Hargraves.

“Did I?” Bumpus gave them a glance of suspicion. “It didn’t seem so.”

“It was great playing,” continued Stover. “Going to keep it up?”

“Of course he is!” interrupted Harrison, as he came up from behind.
“Bump won’t go back on the school as long as it needs him.”

“That’s right!” said Bumpus, beaming with his whole red, swollen face.
“I’m not stuck on the game, but if you really think I’m any help, I’ll
come out till the end of things!”

“That’s the talk,” answered Harrison. “I wish you fellows showed as good
a spirit.”

“We’ve been trying to encourage him,” claimed Hargraves. “What more do
you want?” They went off, snickering, to Stover’s automobile.

Inside the dressing rooms, boys shouted and jested and laughed over
their bathing and dressing. Talbot leaned a smooched arm and a grimy paw
on the top of a locker, and smiled across at Hardie.

“You’ve played football before.”

“Only on a class team at Hillbury.”

“That’s more than most of us have done. You ought to make our team
easily.”

“I’d like to,” said Hardie, wistfully.

“Ever play end?”

“That’s where I’ve always played.”

“See here!” Talbot raised his eyes level with his companion’s and gave
him a square, direct look. “We need just the kind of fellow you are, but
Harry doesn’t know it yet. You keep your mouth shut, play for all that’s
in you, try to do what the coach tells you, and you’ll make the team
before the first league game. Understand?”

“Yes.”

“All right.” Talbot turned toward the door. “Where’s that ’Lijah with
the towels? He hasn’t given me a clean one for two days.”

A sober-faced negro with close-cut side whiskers appeared round the
corner.

“Aren’t you going to give me a clean towel, Lije?”

“Not ontil you pay me,” returned Elijah. “I ain’t trustin’ nobody this
year.”

“You old Shylock!” grumbled Talbot. “I’ve only got five cents, and I
want that for car-fare.”

“I’ll lend you a quarter,” proposed Hardie, eagerly.

“Thanks. He’s more generous than you are, ’Lijah. He’ll lend me a
quarter, and you won’t trust me for a towel.”

“He’s new here,” answered Elijah, solemnly, as he handed over the clean
towel and pocketed the quarter. “If he’d lost as much by you fellows as
I have, he wouldn’t lend you a cent.”

“That pays for a week, now, Lije,” urged Talbot. “Don’t forget!”

“I never forgets. It’s you that forgets;” and the janitor went forth to
seek other business opportunities.

“A good fellow Lije is, but he’s too avaricious,” commented Talbot,
hurrying for the shower.

HALF an hour later, Roger Hardie was giving the last tug to his necktie
before a square of looking-glass that still adhered to the end of the
locker tier near the window, and Talbot, swinging a couple of books by a
strap, lounged near. Eaton was getting into his clothes a few feet
distant, bravely chanting away on a ragtime song in the face of derisive
comments from Wilmot, the manager, who sat on the bench nursing a couple
of footballs. Farther down, Dunn’s tongue was running wild before an
audience of worthies of uncertain intent, whose grins might denote
either innocent amusement or guile. Harrison was minding his own
business in his usual quiet fashion.

“That’s the second time my socks have disappeared!” sputtered Dunn.
“This is the worst gang of thieves I ever got into. You couldn’t keep a
thing here if you had a steel vault and a watchman.”

“You’ve probably got ’em on,” suggested Wilmot.

As Dunn had very little on, and was notably bare as to feet, this
suggestion could not have been serious. He glanced down, none the less,
and earned thereby a unanimous jeer.

“I don’t see how you could lose them,” observed Sumner. “They’re the
most conspicuous things in school. I recognized you by ’em this morning
a block away, before I could see your face.”

“Oh, you did!” was the best Dunn could do in rejoinder.

“I never saw anything like them but once,” Wilmot observed thoughtfully.
“A clown had ’em on in the circus. They seemed all right there.”

“They cost two dollars, anyway!” ejaculated Dunn, who was turning over
football trousers on the floor and kicking shoes into corners.

“Tyrian purple always did come high,” Wilmot said softly. “Aren’t you
ready yet, Jim? This excitement is getting on my nerves. I feel as if
there was an officer here with a search warrant. Perhaps Lije took ’em,
Dunn. He might use ’em for a necktie.”

“If I could find the fellow who swiped ’em, I’d use _him_ for a
necktie!” exploded Dunn. “It’s a low-down trick to hide a man’s clothes.
No one but a kid would do it. You fellows belong with the rubes who tie
knots in shirts at the village swimming-hole!”

This violent arraignment awoke new chuckles of merriment. Dunn was
becoming interesting.

“That’s a good suggestion,” said Wilmot. “Harrison might try that next
time.”

“Shut up, Baldie, and get dressed!” admonished Ben Tracy, in a low tone.
“You’re playing right into their hands. You don’t need the socks to get
to your room.”

At this advice, the wisdom of which he recognized, Dunn smothered his
indignation and went on with his dressing in silence. The crowd,
perceiving that the fun was over, began to scatter. Eaton put on his
coat and turned to Wilmot. “All ready, Steve! Come on, Pete!”

“I’m going up to Hardie’s room for a while,” said Talbot, who had been
talking in the corner with Roger.

Wilmot slid over toward the door. “There are your socks on the bench,
Dunn!” called Eaton.

“I must have been sitting on them all the time,” Wilmot explained
contritely from the doorway. “I felt something hot under me. Hope I
didn’t hurt them.”

“They seem all right, just as bright and sporty as ever. Want ’em,
Dunn?” Eaton held out the lost socks toward their owner; but Dunn,
having definitely adopted a policy of indifference, turned his back on
his tormentors and continued the conversation with Tracy as if he had
lost all interest in the object of dispute—in the end taking possession
of his property without let or hindrance.

Talbot, having explained the point in physics which was the nominal
object of his call on Hardie, sat by the window and talked about school
affairs.

“The trouble with our athletics is that we are in a big city,” he said,
“with lots of interesting things to take up our time outside of school.
Then we’re mostly too young to be very serious about anything. In the
big schools like Hillbury the fellows are older; and in the
boarding-schools they haven’t any outside attractions nor any liberty,
and there’s really nothing else to do but play something.”

“You always have men on the college teams,” remarked Roger.

“Oh, they do well in college, but they’re more mature then. Here there’s
always a whole lot of fooling going on such as you saw this afternoon.
You can’t change a fellow like Wilmot. He’s an awfully nice chap, but
he’s never serious, and he spoils the atmosphere for the hard,
determined kind of work that makes good teams.”

“Harrison seems serious enough,” said Hardie. “I should think he’d make
a mighty good captain.”

“That’s right! He’s about the best fellow we’ve got. That’s the reason I
had hopes of the football, but it looks now as if it was going in the
same old way. If we could only win in football, we could go to work with
more courage on the crew.”

“The crew is always good, isn’t it?”

“We seem to do better with rowing than anything else. There’s no fooling
there, I can tell you. From the time you lift out the boat until you put
her away on the supports there isn’t a minute wasted.”

“I should think it would be monotonous, just pulling an oar with the
same motion all the time. Of course the race is exciting, but the
training must be terribly tiresome.”

“That shows you’ve never tried it,” answered Talbot, laughing. “The race
is hard and disagreeable because you try to pull yourself completely
out, but the practice is fun all the time. We have good coaching, and
every day we try to get into the swing a little better, and overcome
some one of our faults. Then the movement of the boat is fine. You can’t
imagine what a pleasure it is to feel it going under you right—to know
that there is no check between strokes, that everybody is getting away
quick and sharp, and pulling just as he ought to.”

“I don’t understand,” returned Roger, “but I’d like to try it.”

“You must come out. You have the right build for rowing.”

Talbot glanced out at the window and waved his hand at Tracy, who was
crossing the yard to the dormitory. “We’re a long way from that yet,” he
went on. “We might possibly beat Newbury and Trowbridge in rowing, but
we can’t get the cup without football.”

“There’s baseball,” suggested Roger.

“No hope there. What can you expect with a fellow like Stover running
things? We never were a baseball school, anyway. It’s the fellows who
play on the corner lots that make the baseball players. Our fellows do
too much sailing and rowing and playing golf in the summer to have time
for baseball practice.”

He rose to leave. “Just go in hard on the football, and don’t give up if
you don’t get all the credit you deserve. They have a way here of
starting with a team made up on paper and keeping to it through the
season; but it’s a bad custom which I want to see broken. I give Dunn
about three weeks to talk himself off the field. Then if you don’t get
in, it’ll be your own fault.”

The door closed behind the first really sympathetic visitor Roger Hardie
had yet received. He had been in school long enough to know that the
captain of the crew on the whole outranked any other captain, and that
Talbot, in spite of his marked tendency to see the dark spots in the
future, and to be over-frank in his criticism, was yet one of the
steady-flowing springs of school energy, respected perforce even by
those who did not like him. To have Talbot as a friend was to be sure of
a stout defender, if not of a persuasive advocate.

Thrilled with gratitude for the attention shown him, his ambition
kindling into flame from the spark of hope which Talbot had struck,
Roger resolved to show himself worthy of his patron’s favor; he would
make something of himself in the school life for the honor of the boy
who had befriended him, if such a result lay within the reach of hard
work, or patience, or devotion. That making something of himself in the
school life meant to him mainly achieving a success in the school
athletics, was but natural. We who are older may rightly insist that
there are other ways of serving one’s school than by scoring touch-downs
or pulling on a winning crew; but a boy cannot be expected to see life
through the spectacles of the aged. He must grow through his own ideals,
not those of his parents. If his opinion as to the importance of
athletics is a fallacy, it is at least a far more wholesome one to hold
than many cherished by adults.

Roger held his head higher than usual as he went downstairs to dinner,
and in his plain but not unintelligent face the look of stolidity had
given place to a brighter expression.

“I was glad to see you playing to-day,” said Mr. Adams, pleasantly. “It
seemed to me that you were starting in very well.”

“Thank you,” returned Roger, quietly.

“Didn’t you say you hadn’t played before?” asked Ben Tracy.

Hardie shook his head. “I didn’t mean to. I’ve never played on a school
team. At Hillbury I played end on my class team in some of the games.”

“That’s not bad,” said Louis, with respect. “They have great class teams
at those schools.”

“It isn’t like playing on a school team, though,” offered Dunn. “You
don’t have any great responsibility.”

“The class feeling is pretty strong sometimes,” replied Roger, “and the
games are always hard.”

“I liked the way you got into the play,” said Mr. Adams. “The house
ought to give a good account of itself on the playground this year.”

“I couldn’t do anything at all to-day,” observed Dunn. “I have to feel
just right to do myself credit. I didn’t sleep very well last night.”

Redfield exchanged a glance of intelligence with Louis Tracy. They knew
what had disturbed Dunn’s slumbers,—the memory of a late lunch in
Number Six.

“You must be careful about food and bed hours if you want to be in good
condition,” observed Mr. Adams, apparently oblivious to the exchange of
messages. “It takes some self-control to keep in training with a pocket
full of money.”

“I’d like to have a chance to try it once,” sighed Redfield, to whose
mind the suggestion of a pocket full of money conveyed the idea of a
continuously replenished supply. Much of his allowance never reached his
pocket at all; it was spent in paying back bills.

HARDIE’S appearance on the football field unquestionably raised him from
the condition of nonentity into which he had fallen, but it did not
materially help him to get into the charmed circle of the initiate who
occupied the social centre of the school on a kind of ancestral tenure.
He felt himself an outsider, even more after Talbot had shown him favor
than before, for friendliness on the part of one served only to
emphasize the lack of interest of others. It was not that he was
objectionable or disliked; his schoolmates were merely content without
him, seeing nothing in the newcomer that commended him especially to
their notice. His mother’s name was not on their mothers’ calling lists;
he possessed no cousins or near friends who knew their cousins or
friends; he lacked the ready tongue which creates on short acquaintance
a reputation for wit. He had no special resources to enhance his
attractiveness—no fast auto waiting for him at the corner, no shooting
lodge in the marsh to which his friends might be invited. He was just
plain, undistinguished, unvalued Hardie, a new boy who lived at Adams’s
and played tackle on the second.

Dunn still floated with the tide. Judgment regarding him was still in a
measure suspended, but aside from Talbot, who was silent about him, and
Wilmot, who jollied him, the trend of opinion was in his favor. As a
prospective member of the first eleven, he possessed prestige, and as a
good-natured loafer whose excuses and garrulity were entertaining, he
appealed to the indiscriminate humor of the mob. But with one of the
smaller, though not altogether impotent, members of the school, he early
fell into conflict.

“Mike” McKay was a red-headed, freckle-faced, wing-eared urchin, filled
to the brim with activity and energy, who dominated the fifth class. He
lived at Adams’s, and held the proud position of captain and half-back
on the fourth eleven. Mike was no lover of lessons, but they constituted
a part of his day, and with his natural habit of putting into everything
that he undertook all the vim he possessed, he labored on them devotedly
until they were accomplished. Behind Mike in the schoolroom sat
Archibald Dunn. Dunn lacked the zeal of his little neighbor; he could
endure about ten minutes of mental effort at a stretch, after which his
brain demanded rest. In these intervals of rest he often refreshed
himself by slouching down in his seat and bracing his toes against the
chair in front of him, achieving, in the meantime, some distraction by a
languid survey of the room. Mike, intent on the French sentences which
he was laboriously manufacturing, word upon word, like a conscientious
bricklayer, would feel the tip of Dunn’s toe thrust into his exposed
haunch, and violently reacting, would make a scrawl or drop a blot to
disfigure the work of his hands.

Expostulations served only to convert what had at first been accidental
into a deliberate and repeated annoyance. Dunn had discovered a
diversion for the idle moments of brain recuperation.

Stung one day by this persecution, Mike turned fiercely and attacked the
exposed ankle of the offender with his pen. A teacher, sharp-eyed but
not far-sighted, caught the boy in the act and gave him long minutes
after school. This result appeared to Dunn exquisitely amusing; he could
hardly wait for the lunch hour to bring him the opportunity of telling
the story.

“You’d better let Mike alone,” said Ben Tracy. “He’s a miniature
fire-eater when he’s mad.”

Dunn sniffed contemptuously. “What do I care for him? I could lick a
couple of such little fresh kids with one hand.”

“He seems to me a rather nice little chap,” Redfield remarked.

“That shows he isn’t,” answered Dunn. “You never get things right.”

Silenced by this blunt personality, which Dunn would classify under the
head of wit, Redfield abandoned the conversation and devoted himself to
his luncheon. Bumpus came rolling in just in season to hear Redfield’s
remark and Dunn’s rejoinder.

“Who’s the nice little chap?” he asked, as he removed one chair and took
possession of the territory belonging to two.

“You!” sang out Wilmot, giving Bumpus a slap as he tripped past to
another table.

Bumpus beamed with joy, not at the jest, which indeed was worn as smooth
as a pebble in a pot-hole, but at Wilmot’s cordial manner, and at the
intimacy suggested by the playful tap on the shoulder. Word had gone out
from Captain Harrison that Bumpus was to be encouraged.

“Captain Mike McKay,” explained Tracy. “Dunn’s got him stung!”

“You don’t suppose I’m going to have him jabbing pens into my legs, do
you?” protested Dunn, disappointed to be thrown upon his defence when he
had expected to be amusing.

Of course no one did suppose any such thing, and the conversation
zigzagged gayly off to distant fields. Meantime Mike was temporarily
allaying his indignation by a brisk and noisy game of indoor baseball in
the playroom. Later on he paid his penance with stoicism, working out
half his home arithmetic problems during the period of his detention.

On the next day Mike endured two or three toe thrusts with Christian
forbearance. By squeezing himself against his desk he could put a
neutral zone between his own person and the convenient range of the
prods. By this pretence of retreat he tempted the enemy into an
incautious advance. To reach his prey in spite of bars, Dunn slid
farther down in his own seat, and bent his foot around the chair back,
so as to come within striking distance.

Instantly the boy recognized his opportunity. Seizing the foot with both
his nimble hands, he twisted off the shoe and passed it across the aisle
to a faithful clansman, who handed on the emblem of victory to another,
who as speedily got rid of it in his turn. By the time Dunn recovered
himself sufficiently to demand its restoration, the whereabouts of the
shoe was actually unknown to the first plunderer. It ultimately found
its way, wrapped in a page of a returned exercise, to the waste-basket.

The call to recitation broke in upon Dunn’s efforts, greatly handicapped
by the presence of a teacher at the other end of the room, to make clear
to Pirate Mike the fate in store for him if the shoe were not
immediately returned to its owner. The fifth Latin rose with cheerful
readiness and crowded to the door. Dunn fell in behind them, though he
had no recitation at that time, hoping in the confusion to get his hand
on his enemy. Once out of sight of the room teacher, he pressed on
hotly, scattering the fifth like a flock of sheep, and with an
imprecation on his lips reached for his quarry,—only to be met by the
stern face of Mr. Westcott as he emerged from his room at the foot of
the stairs.

Dunn was questioned in the office in a most unpleasant secret session,
while the fifth in their Latin room were forced to trace the route
between Mike’s desk and the waste-basket. When the different stations on
this underground railroad were located, and the shoe was produced by the
boy who had consigned it to its last resting-place, the guilty received
the regular penalty for small misdemeanors, and the Latin lesson took
its usual course.

Dunn’s session was longer. He emerged with a very red face, and sat with
a book open before him, staring angrily and unprofitably at its pages
for many minutes. He was very late for football practice for several
days after, on an excuse that was evidently valid. This, however, might
have been but a passing experience, forgotten in a fortnight, had not a
heartless sally from Wilmot perpetuated the memory of the unpleasantness
and given Mike a telling advantage over his bigger foe.

As was to be expected, Dunn had no history lesson that morning. He never
did compass more than half a lesson, but to-day he was as ignorant on
the subject of Greek Oracles and Greek Colonization as the Esquimau in
his hut of ice on the edge of No Man’s Land.

More than this, he showed himself distrait, and totally impervious to
the cleverly pointed shafts with which Mr. Downs sought to pierce a way
to thick-crusted brains. The patient instructor, ignorant, of course, of
the disturbance of the morning, and faithful to duty even under
discouraging circumstances, detained Dunn after the class was dismissed
for recess to admonish him of the evil consequences of idleness and
inattention. As a result, Dunn arrived at the lunch room late, facing
with an uneasy and unnatural grin a full collection of unsympathetic
teases.

“Jason!” cried Wilmot, loudly. “Beware of the man with one shoe!”

About one first class boy in five understood the reference, and this one
was immediately besought by his four ignorant companions to explain the
joke, for joke they were sure it must be. Johnny Cable, the book-learned
but otherwise incapable, was in excessive demand for the next few
minutes to clear up the mystery. These few minutes Dunn employed in
strengthening his defence of indifference and preparing himself for the
coming questions as to what Mr. Westcott had said to him, and what he
was going to do to Mike. He answered the questions in very ambiguous
terms, but his threats against the chief agent in his misfortunes were
no less awful because of their vagueness, while the grins of a dozen
fifth class boys at the long table opposite kept his wrath at the
boiling-point. Ben Tracy at last succeeded in diverting the general
interest to Redfield, who had made a new record that morning in the
smashing of glass tubes in the laboratory.

But the fifth were not to be diverted. They had no need of Cable’s
learning to explain Wilmot’s comparison. Having fought their way, line
by line, through sundry tales of Greek heroes presented in simple Latin,
they knew the stories from end to end. “Jason Dunn!” they whispered
ecstatically to one another along the table. The names fitted as if made
to go together. No combination could be better!

“We’ll call him Jason after this,” proposed Dickie Sumner, Jack’s
younger brother. “Nobody can help saying it after he’s heard it once.”

This suggestion was put into practice as soon as the youngsters left the
table. They gathered at the door and sang out in chorus three times
before they scattered: “Jason Dunn! Jason Dunn! What has Jason done?”

“Fresh little mutts!” exclaimed Tracy, in disgust. “That’s the result of
being tied up with a kindergarten. Let’s go out and wring their necks!”

“Don’t notice ’em,” said Wilmot. “They’ll forget it to-morrow if you let
’em alone.”

But the title stuck. Before a week was out, the name, Archie Dunn, or
Baldie Dunn, ceased to be heard on a boy’s lips. It had become Jason
Dunn.

THE first skirmish in the feud that was bound to arise came on the
following day at Adams’s, when a group of fifth and sixth lads, thinking
themselves safe in the shadow of the dormitory, sang out the new
nickname derisively across the field to Dunn. Dunn, who was still in a
state of irritation, and by no means ready, as yet, to accept the
inevitable nickname, made a dash for the group, which broke into
screaming flight round the corner of the locker house. The first lad
whom Jason met as he rounded the corner in full pursuit, was Mike,
engaged in tossing a football against the side of the building. Without
stopping to raise the question whether Mike had been one of the
offenders, Dunn proceeded to the agreeable task of teaching the urchin a
lesson. The boy resisted with hands, feet, voice, and teeth. The older
fellows, hurrying forth at the shrill cries for help, found Mike lying
on his back, like the arms of a hay tedder, squirming to keep his
antagonist at bay and squawking like a hen in distress.

[Illustration: HIS FEET GOING LIKE THE ARMS OF A HAY TEDDER.]

The majority of the newcomers lined up in good positions, to enjoy the
amusement which chance had thrown in their way; but Talbot, who had seen
the beginning of the incident from a distance, pushed through the line,
jerked the boy to his feet, and commanded him to stop his noise.

“He knocked me down when I wasn’t doing a thing!” screamed Mike, weeping
more from rage than because of any hurt which he had received. “Let me
get a stone, and I’ll kill him!”

“You won’t do anything of the sort,” said Talbot, firmly. He turned to
Dunn. “What’s the row, anyway? What’s the use of pitching into a little
fellow like him?”

“I’m not going to have him calling me names,” said Dunn, defiantly. “He
thinks because he’s small he can be as fresh as he wants to, without
getting hurt.”

“I didn’t call him names,” sobbed Mike. “I wasn’t doing a thing.”

“It wasn’t him,” offered Dickie Sumner, who had been tempted back by
all-compelling curiosity. “He wasn’t with us at all.”

Talbot turned and seized the rash youngster by the arm. “So it was you,
was it? Now, look here! We aren’t going to have any calling names or any
other freshness from you young kids round this place. If we catch you at
it, we’ll duck you under the cold-water faucet and forbid you the
grounds. Understand?”

Dickie understood. “All right,” he answered faintly, and tried to pull
away; but Talbot still held him in a tight grip.

“What do you say, Jack?” he added, turning to Dick’s older brother, who
shared with him the responsibility for order on the grounds.

“That’s right!” replied Jack Sumner, sacrificing his fraternal
obligation in the cause of justice with surprising equanimity. “He’s a
good one to begin on.”

Talbot released the youngster, who speedily escaped from the circle of
danger to join his confederates over by the tennis courts, where they
discussed for a time in subdued voices the probability that Pete meant
business. They were soon diverted by tag.

“All the same, Dunn is a fool to notice them,” murmured Talbot in
Hardie’s ear as they returned to the locker room to finish their
dressing.

“I don’t believe he can shake off the nickname, now,” said Roger.

“No, it’s branded in. He isn’t showing much of the good-nature they talk
about, is he?”

In fact, Dunn’s good-nature didn’t extend far below the skin. It was a
mannerism assumed to win him the popularity which he craved. He was
vain, lazy, and characterless. In the football field his fine physique,
together with the professional air with which he bore himself, for some
time blinded the eyes of critics to his shortcomings. Yards, the coach,
felt sure that something could be made of a man of Dunn’s vigor and
apparent knowledge of the game. Yet a strong player opposite him, or the
grinding strain of an uphill contest, invariably produced slackened
effort and excuses.

“It’s come to be the weakest place in the team,” said the coach, a few
days before the Groton game. “If we could brace up the left end and
quarter-back, we should have some hope of giving Newbury a tussle.”

“Is Sumner so bad as all that?” asked Harrison, disturbed. “I thought he
was running the play very well.”

“He runs the play well enough, but look at the errors! He fumbles, muffs
punts, misses tackles. A quarter-back has no right to do anything of the
kind.”

“No one plays perfectly,” Harrison hastened to offer in defence of his
friend. “Besides, he’s the only man we’ve got for the place.”

“Hardie is coming on well,” observed the coach. “He’s going to push Ben
Tracy pretty hard for tackle. We might give him a trial at quarter.”

“I don’t think he’d do at all,” answered Harrison, quickly. “He’d be
entirely new to the position, and we shall need him as a substitute
tackle before the season is over.”

The coach considered for a time in silence. Yards was a loyal Westcott
graduate, whose devotion to his school was strong enough to make him
sacrifice his afternoons at the Law School for the sake of helping the
Westcott team. He knew the game well and could teach it, but he lacked
confidence in his own judgment of the comparative merits of individuals,
and he was morbidly anxious to avoid the foolish jealousies which he
remembered as a source of weakness to the school in his own day. It was
clear that Harrison’s heart was set on keeping Sumner in his place. To
insist on a change which would be at best an experiment with an unknown
quantity, and which might give rise to factions, seemed at present
unwise.

“We’ll give McDowell a chance on the end, anyway,” he said, “and let
Dunn rest.”

To this proposition Harrison assented eagerly, and went hot foot to warn
Sumner that he must bestir himself if he wanted to keep his post.

“Am I as bad as that?” asked Sumner, in consternation.

“You’re not bad, but you’ve got to be better.”

In place of replying, Sumner swung his sweater to the other shoulder and
gazed, a sober, startled expression in his eyes, across the field.
Harrison stole a side glance at his friend’s face and took his arm
affectionately. “It’s all right, Jack; don’t worry,” he said. “Just play
your best game, and I’ll stand back of you.”

“You’re wrong there, Harry,” Jack said quietly. “You’ve no right to
stand back of me. My playing has been rotten lately, and I know it. I’m
fumbling punts and missing tackles all the time. If you’ve got some one
else who can do better, I won’t have you keep me on just out of
friendship.”

“You’re talking rot,” returned Harrison, impatiently. “Stubby Weldon is
no use, as you know perfectly well. There’s no one else.”

Sumner breathed easier. “I’ll do better if I can,” he said.

So McDowell went to Groton to play left end, and Dunn was told to stay
at home and rest. He neither stayed at home nor rested. Stover took him
to the game with Hargraves and Reeves in his flyer. He amused himself
watching the play incognito, and got back before the return train
delivered the weary, disheartened team at the station in Boston.

Westcott’s fared ill at Groton. Sumner’s game was worse than ever.
McDowell strove like a hero against men a whole head taller and many
pounds heavier, tackling fiercely and surely whenever he got within
striking distance of the ball; but his opponents brushed his
interference aside, charged through him in the line and blocked him off
from the play almost at will. The score was eighteen to nothing at the
end of the first half.

“I can’t do it!” groaned McDowell, as the players tried to hearten each
other during the intermission. “I’m not big enough. Put Hardie in.”

As Dunn was out, there was nothing else to do. Hardie went in at left
end, and fat Bumpus, who had lost in weight but gained in muscle and
wind by his patriotic exertions on the field, relieved Kimball at guard.
The team sallied forth once more, crestfallen but determined.

Groton got the ball on Talbot’s kick-off, and tried the old trick of
circling Westcott’s left end, but Hardie could not be disposed of, and
the play came to grief. They bucked the centre, only to find big Bumpus
sprawling effectually in the path. A forward pass found its way into
Horr’s hands. Then Sumner gave the ball to Talbot, who discovered a hole
where McDowell had failed to make one. Encouraged, he repeated the play
and made the first down. A lucky forward pass which, to his great
delight, fell into Hardie’s hands, saved Westcott’s at the next third
down, and carried the ball to the centre of the field. Twenty yards
farther they pressed, and then Talbot was forced to kick. Groton started
on a return journey, which proved to be slow and frequently interrupted.
A fumble by Westcott’s before the goal posts gave the home eleven the
only score which they made during the second half.

Roger Hardie felt very happy as he took his seat in the barge with his
mates to drive to the station, for he knew, without regard to the
compliments paid him by his polite opponents, that his chance had come
and he had not missed it.

The leaders, however, were in no exultant mood. Twenty-three to nothing
is a big score for a coach and captain to swallow, especially when it is
clear that two-thirds of it is due to avoidable errors. On the train Mr.
Adams, who had accompanied the team, sat with Yards, Harrison, and
Talbot in a double seat, and tried to point out signs of hope for the
future in the day’s disaster.

“I should like to suggest two changes,” he said at length, “which may
help the team. One I think you will accept. The other I have my doubts
about.”

The trio looked at him expectantly. “Hardie should play regularly at
left end,” went on the teacher. “His work to-day was almost equal to
Harrison’s.”

“Better, sir!” said Harrison, quickly. “We accept that suggestion on the
spot, don’t we, Yards?”

Yards nodded. “We ought to have had him there before. What’s the other
suggestion,—Bumpus?”

“No. Bumpus can take care of himself. I want to propose that you try
McDowell at quarter. He’s out of place in the line, but he’s a good
tackler, catches punts well, and has a good head.”

Talbot looked at Yards, and Yards looked at Harrison, who pressed his
lips together and looked at no one. There was an interval of silence.

“I don’t see why he should be any better than Sumner!” said the captain,
defiantly.

“I don’t see how he could be any worse!” ejaculated Talbot.

“I don’t urge it,” said Mr. Adams, kindly. “I merely suggest it for
consideration.”

“He couldn’t run the game as Jack does,” said Harrison.

“He could save touch-downs as Jack doesn’t,” asserted Talbot. “I think
as much of Jack as you do, but my thinking a lot of him can’t make him
play well.”

“He has been on the team all the season. It is hard to put him off now.”

“No one stays on the crew because he’s been on all the season—I’ll tell
you that in advance!” blurted Pete, savagely. “I’ll fire myself if there
are four better men.”

Harrison smiled faintly. “It’s easy to say that now. Wait till spring.”

“Sh! Here he comes,” exclaimed Yards, speaking for the first time.
“We’ll think it over during the night.”

Sumner came oscillating down the aisle from the seat which he had
occupied, dismally brooding alone, during half the journey. He stopped
at the end of the double seat and addressed Harrison, but his gaze, as
he spoke, wandered uneasily away over the captain’s head; while his
flushed cheek and hurried tones betrayed the strain under which he had
been laboring.

“I’ve been thinking the thing all over,” he began, “and I see perfectly
plainly what’s the right thing to do. I’ve gone to the bad in my play. I
know it as well as anybody. I want you to put little Mac into my place
at quarter and give him a good, fair show to prove what he can do. He’s
no good in the line because he’s so light, but he tackles like a little
fiend in the open, and he can catch anything that can be kicked. I could
tell him all he doesn’t know about signals and plays in twenty minutes.
I believe the change would give the team a new start.”

“By Jove, you’re the stuff, Jack!” cried Talbot, as he clutched his
friend’s hand and gave it a wring. “If we win anything this year, that’s
the spirit that’ll bring it. There’s something in a name, after all.”

“Give McDowell the place and wrest it back from him,” suggested Mr.
Adams, who felt the tension of the scene.

“I shan’t wrest it back, if he has a fair show, sir,” answered Sumner,
with a melancholy laugh.

“We’ll try him, then,” concluded Harrison; “shan’t we, Yards?”

Yards acquiesced with a vast sense of relief. He had already determined
on this very change, though how he was to bring it about had greatly
perplexed him. Sumner’s magnanimity relieved him of all anxiety.

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