THE COMMITTEE DECIDES

WHEN the Westcott boys gathered Monday morning at the corner outside the
school building, every third comer bore a newspaper in his hand and hot
indignation in his heart. Only those who did not read the papers, and
had not learned the news which Mike and Dickie brought to the quarters,
wore the complacent smile which they had carried from the field on
Saturday.

President John’s friends, the reporters, had done their work thoroughly.
While most of the Sunday journals merely announced the result of the
game, or gave a few inches of space to a more or less inaccurate
description, the _Trumpeter_ and the _Mail_ each sacrificed to it the
best part of a column on the page devoted to sports, introduced by heavy
headlines such as: WESTCOTT’S KNEW THE SIGNALS. SENSATIONAL CHARGES
AGAINST BACK BAY BOYS. GAME PROTESTED. INTERVIEW WITH PRES. SMITH! From
the interview it appeared that President John saw the affair in a very
serious light; that the league stood for the highest ideals in sport,—a
familiar phrase in the mouth of its president,—and would certainly deal
sternly with dishonorable practices of any kind. A special meeting of
the managing committee of the league was to be called immediately to
consider the protest. If the charge should be sustained, clearly the
only fair course would be to declare the game forfeited to Newbury, the
score to stand on the record as one to nothing.

To say that the Westcott lads felt indignant at being thus advertised as
unscrupulous cheats when they knew themselves absolutely innocent, is
like describing a raving maniac as the victim of hallucination. They
boiled and bubbled with rage. If President John had shown himself at the
corner of Otway Street at that moment, they would have flown to mob him,
though every bell in the Westcott school were clanging in their ears.
But as the exalted official did not present himself to be mobbed, and
the school gong did ring, they filed obediently in, and taking their
seats, brooded in sullen bitterness on the outrage. A boy’s sense of
justice—or, as some one has better expressed it, sense of injustice—is
always morbidly keen. The boys at Westcott’s were used to a life in
which the good things flowed in on them naturally, with few questions as
to whether they were deserved or undeserved. Good behavior, fair work,
regard for their parents’ wishes, constituted the price they were
expected to pay; even on this discounts were sometimes allowed. Flat
over-riding of just rights had entered into their experience as little
as physical hardship. They reared against the blow like a young,
high-spirited horse which feels for the first time the sting of a cruel
whip.

After the morning Scripture reading, to which, it is to be feared, few
gave heed, Mr. Westcott called Harrison and Wilmot into his office,
where he kept them for a quarter of an hour. The other football men, if
they could have had their hearts’ desire, would have sat outside the
office, matching expletives, until their comrades should come forth and
give them the history of the interview. This being for obvious reasons
impossible, the excited lads kept their curiosity under control and went
about their morning tasks with what interest they could
muster,—wrestling, nauseated, with the dullness of Burke on
Conciliation, abusing good English by turning it into worse than peasant
German, and finding Cicero’s maledictions on Catiline but weak and
watery dilutions compared with the things they could say of President
John Smith. Dunn alone of those especially concerned studied that
morning with absolute diligence; he did this in self-defence, to keep
his thoughts from a subject—more disagreeable than lessons—to which
they would wander if his grip upon them slackened but a moment.

At the lunch hour the ban was raised. A crowd packed itself about
Harrison and Wilmot as soon as the two got within the lunch-room door,
demanding news, and news condensed. “What did he say? What are you going
to do?” was the burden of the questions, but they fell like a hailstorm
in various forms and at various angles, from scores of lips at once.
Harrison was staggered, but not Wilmot, whose nimble wit served an ever
nimble tongue.

“He says we’ve disgraced the school,” said Wilmot, with a tragic
gesture. “We’ve got to go to Mr. Smith and apologize and—”

He stopped, not because he had run out of ideas, or was put to shame by
the serious faces about him, but of simple necessity. A hand was pressed
upon his lips and a strong arm embraced him from behind.

“Shut up, or I’ll break your ribs,” said Talbot, quietly. “We don’t want
to hear from you at all. Harry’s the man. Go ahead, Harry. I’ll keep
this fellow quiet.”

Harrison, thus encouraged, started on his report. “He wanted to know all
about it, and we told him. He said it was an insult to the school which
we must treat with dignified contempt. We’ve got to keep cool about it
and not get crazy and shoot off a lot of wild talk. That would hurt us
more than anything those fellows can say. He’s going to have Yards write
to the two papers, and he’ll write to the head-master at Trowbridge.”

“They’ve called a meeting for Wednesday,” said Pete.

“Do you think Trowbridge will side with ’em?” asked Hardie.

“I hope not,” answered the captain, doubtfully.

“If they think they can beat us,” offered Cable, “Trowbridge will side
with us, because if we beat Newbury and Trowbridge beat us, the worst
that could come for Trowbridge would be a tie, even if they got beaten
by Newbury.”

“How’s that?” demanded Reeves.

“It’s right. Think it out for yourself, and you’ll see,” said Talbot,
impatiently.

“And if we get one vote from Trowbridge, and one goes against us,”
continued Cable, encouraged by the attention given to his remarks,
“we’re sure to lose our case. There would be two votes of Newbury and
one of Trowbridge against us, and two of Westcott’s and one of
Trowbridge for us. Then the president would vote against us.”

“That’s right, too,” said Pete, ruefully.

“And if Trowbridge doesn’t vote at all or doesn’t come to the meeting,
the result will be the same.”

“I don’t believe Trowbridge would play us that kind of a trick,”
remarked Sumner; “it’s too mean a thing to do.”

At this point the suppressed Wilmot began to wave his hands about in
gestures which indicated that he wished permission to speak.

“Let go of him, Pete; he wants to say something!” commanded the captain.

Wilmot, obtaining release by this pantomime, escaped to a safer
position. “You haven’t said anything about going to see Callahan.”

“I forgot that. He thought Jason and some one else had better hunt up
Callahan and get his evidence.”

At this proposal, Dunn, who stood on the outskirts of the crowd, was
edging away, but Eaton dragged him back. “I won’t!” said the
unfortunate, sullenly. “I don’t want anything more to do with it.”

“You’ve got to,” Eaton retorted. “You’ve got us into this scrape; now
you must get us out.”

“You’ll have to go, too, Harry,” said Talbot, calmly treating Dunn’s
refusal as if it had not been made.

“I must be at the practice. Steve can go. He’s no use for anything
else.”

“I can’t go, either,” began Wilmot. “I’ve got to look after the balls
and take care of the sweaters and—”

“Shut up!” interrupted Talbot. “Mike will attend to all that, won’t you,
Mike?”

“Sure!”

“I’m not the man for it; I couldn’t get anything out of him,” insisted
Wilmot. “A simple, inoffensive fellow like me could never make any one
do anything he doesn’t want to. Pete ought to go. He’s got an awful
crust.”

“You’re going,” answered Talbot; “it’s the manager’s job. If Callahan
can stand your talk for ten minutes without giving you anything you ask
to get rid of you, he’ll be the first man who’s ever done it. You
remember the address, Jason?”

Dunn thought he did. “Then it’s settled,” said Talbot. “Let’s get
something to eat.”

That afternoon Wilmot and Dunn journeyed to East Boston together in
search of Callahan. They had little to say to each other on the way.
Wilmot disliked Dunn, and Dunn was afraid of Wilmot; neither relished
the expedition on which they were engaged. After much questioning and
unnecessary wandering they arrived at No. 73 Doble Street and asked if
Mr. Callahan lived there.

Yes, Mr. Callahan lived there, but was not at home; he would be in about
five. The boys drifted forth to kill time as best they could, hung round
the steamship docks, where a big Cunarder was being loaded, until
darkness fell, and then strolled slowly back to the abode of the
ex-coach.

Callahan had returned. They waited in the dimly lighted entry while
their message was carried aloft, depressed by the strange surroundings
and a sense of inadequacy to the task which they had undertaken.
Presently a heavy step was heard descending the bare treads of the
second flight above, and soon Callahan’s forbidding face came into the
half-light. He stopped on the third stair and peered suspiciously down
upon his visitors.

It had been arranged that Dunn should begin the interview, but at the
crisis Jason was dumb.

“What is it?” demanded Callahan. “What do you want?”

“We come from Westcott’s School,” said Wilmot, perceiving that it was
useless to wait for Dunn. “You’ve probably seen in the papers the
trouble we’re in about the Newbury game.”

“Yes, I have,” snarled Callahan, with an oath; “and a nice mess you’ve
got me into with your talk!”

“We haven’t been talking,” Wilmot answered; “it’s Newbury that’s doing
the talking. We thought you’d be willing to help us out by saying that
we didn’t get any signals from you, and—”

“Of course you didn’t get any signals from me—for the very good reason
that I wouldn’t have given ’em to you.”

“But you offered them to us,” said Dunn, his tongue loosened by this
strange statement. “You told me that day at Adams’s—”

Callahan turned fiercely upon him. “It’s a lie! I never offered you any
signals. I said I was through with Newbury and could coach you if you
wanted me.”

Dunn, amazed, opened his mouth to reply, but Wilmot was too quick for
him. “Will you write us a statement that you didn’t give us any signals?
Of course we know you didn’t, but the statement might help us.”

“Write nothing!” said the coach, shortly. “It’s none of my business.
There’s nothing in it for me.”

“We’ll pay you for it,” began Dunn, with eagerness; but Wilmot, who
perceived instantly that an evil interpretation might be given to this
transaction, checked his colleague.

“No, we couldn’t do that, of course. It wouldn’t look right. But if
you’d give us a statement denying that we got the Newbury signals from
you, we should be very thankful for it.”

“I’m not giving statements. Anybody who knows Jake Callahan knows he
wouldn’t sell signals. Anybody who says he did, lies!”

While speaking these words, Callahan had finished his descent of the
stairs and opened the outer door. Wilmot said good night and went forth,
dragging after him Dunn, who seemed on the point of raising again the
question of the conversation which he had held with Callahan at the
field.

“But he did offer the signals just the same!” Dunn broke out, after they
had walked in silence a hundred yards down the street.

“What difference does it make?” answered Wilmot, wearily. “He’s no good
to us, anyway.”

Yards was no more successful with his communication to the newspapers.
The _Mail_ hid it away in the bottom corner of the market page, where
Yards himself had difficulty in discovering it. The _Trumpeter_
sandwiched it in between a letter on Esperanto and another from an
opponent of the battle-ship programme. As few who read the sports pages
know of the existence of the correspondence column, and no one who reads
the letters cares anything about sports, Yards’s chance of undoing the
impression made by President John’s friends was about one in a thousand.

TALBOT and Sumner were the Westcott members of the general committee
which was to consider the protest of the Newbury captain. They did not
lack advice as to what to say and what not to say, nor original
suggestions concerning methods of influencing the Trowbridge vote,
which, as everybody understood, must really decide the matter. Mr.
Westcott was the only counsellor to whom they gave heed, and his
directions they determined to follow to the best of their ability. They
were to avoid all display of feeling, keep their tempers under absolute
control, tell their story calmly without acrimony, and throw themselves
unreservedly upon the sense of fairness of the committee. Such a course
was especially difficult for Talbot, whose vehemence tolerated no
trifling or evasion, and whose frankness verged on discourtesy. He felt
his own unfitness for the task before him, even while he longed to be
brought face to face with the traducers of his school.

“You’ll have to do the talking, Jack,” he said, as the two delegates,
having patiently endured to the end the fusillade of admonitions and
counsel with which their ears had been deafened all day long, took seats
in the car which was to carry them to the Newbury School. “If I once get
going, I’m bound to go off the handle and ruin the whole business.”

“I don’t believe you will,” answered Sumner, reassuringly. “There’s too
much at stake. You just want to think of it as seven honest people
brought together to consider a question of fact,—that’s what Mr.
Westcott said,—not as if you were out for a fight with three sworn
enemies and two doubtful characters.”

“If Smithy isn’t an enemy, I don’t know what an enemy is! I wish Harry
or Steve were here in my place; either would be a lot better than I.
Harry can hold his tongue, and Steve can talk an apple off a tree!”

“You can hold your tongue, too.”

“I will, if I have to bite it off—until they decide against us. When
that comes, I’m going to call ’em just what they are, a pack of
thieves!”

“But it may not come,” said Sumner, quietly.

“Oh, it will. Everybody thinks so. Mr. Snyder will vote with us because
Trowbridge will want to seem to be fair, and Frost will vote with
Newbury. That will make a tie, and Smithy will be forced in the
interests of pure athletics to give the deciding vote against us.”

“I don’t believe it. Anyway, if that’s your opinion, you don’t want to
show it, or they’ll think you know you haven’t any case. We want to act
as if we were sure of the rightfulness of our claim, and had only to
state it to have it granted.”

“I wish there was something I could _do_!” groaned Pete. “I hate to sit
around and pretend.”

The other members of the committee were already assembled when Sumner
and Talbot were shown into the room. The glance with which Pete took in
this fact hardened immediately into a look of hostility, for it seemed
to him probable that the five had already used their opportunity to come
to a decision with reference to the object of the meeting, and that the
proceedings would now be merely formal. But Sumner was already going the
rounds, shaking hands with everybody in a spirit of great friendliness;
so Pete, suspecting that this was the proper time to begin that
assumption of confidence to which Sumner had urged him, fell in behind
his colleague, with a mighty effort crowding back his feeling of
distrust. Mr. Snyder and Frost greeted him cordially, and though Newbold
vouchsafed but a languid clasp of the hand and murmured a palpably empty
phrase of politeness through a frigid grimace, Thorne gave him a grip of
reassuring warmth. He tarried therefore at Thorne’s side and talked with
him for a few minutes on indifferent themes,—such as sailing and summer
dances,—thereby turning his back on President John and avoiding the
necessity of dissembling before that much-hated dignitary.

Thorne and Talbot were old friends, although their position now seemed
to Pete more like that of enemies approaching the battlefield. Their
summer houses stood within a mile of each other on Buzzard’s Bay, and
even now their boats lay housed side by side. It was a pity that a
naturally decent fellow like Thorne could be so blinded by rabid
partisanship as to lend himself as an abettor to the scheme of a John
Smith!

So Talbot was thinking, more in sorrow than in wrath, when President
John mounted the platform—a recitation room was their council
chamber—and called the meeting to order. They separated now to three
benches, Newbold and Thorne on the left wing, Mr. Snyder and Frost in
the centre, Talbot and Sumner on the right. “It’s like a court,”
whispered Pete, “with Trowbridge for judge. We’re no good except to pair
with Newbold and Thorne.”

The chairman introduced the business of the hour with all solemnity. The
committee had met to consider the charge made by Newbury that Westcott’s
had won the game of Saturday by unfair and dishonorable methods. It had
been to him a great disappointment that the first contest in the new
league, to which he had devoted so much time and thought, should have
been darkened by scandal. He felt, however, and he was confident that
the majority of the committee agreed with him, that there could be no
turning back upon the ideals of the league—again those ideals!—The
mere winning or losing of a game was of slight consequence compared with
the supreme importance of holding unswervingly to the highest
conceptions of honor and gentlemanly conduct.

“The old hypocrite!” whispered Pete in Sumner’s ear.

“Hush!” and a warning hand clutched the offender’s knee.

The chairman now read the protest,—which wound up with a demand that
the game be declared forfeited to Newbury,—and complacently asked what
should be done with it, addressing presumably the whole committee, but
looking straight before him at the two members from Trowbridge.

“I think we ought to consider first the grounds for the protest, and
afterwards, if the protest is sustained, the penalty,” said Mr. Snyder.

“Very well,” agreed the chairman; “we will hear the Newbury statements
first.”

If the protest is sustained! Why should they mention the penalty at all
unless they meant to sustain the protest? Talbot became more than ever
convinced that the whole affair was prejudged and that the proceedings
would be merely the carrying out of a prearranged plan.

He listened closely to Newbold, none the less, when the latter, in the
capacity of prosecuting attorney, presented his case. Newbury had been
unfortunate this year in the selection of Callahan as coach. A week
before the game with Westcott’s, for certain reasons unnecessary to
state, he had been discharged. Callahan was very “sore” and declared in
presence of witnesses—Newbold held up a paper which he said contained
their statements—that he’d “get even.” A few days afterward, Callahan
had been observed at the Westcott field in long conversation with a
Westcott player—another display of papers. Later this player was seen
conferring with Harrison and others of the football men. In the course
of this conference, one of the Westcott men dropped a paper which the
witness secured; on it was written the address of the discharged coach.
Suspecting an attempt to steal a knowledge of their game, Newbury had
changed certain plays and signals, but because the time was too short to
master an entirely new set they had been compelled to use a large number
of the old ones. In the game Westcott’s had often understood the Newbury
signals as soon as they were given out, and it was the old signals which
they understood. Through a knowledge of the signals, Westcott’s spoiled
Newbury’s play and won.

As Newbold sat down, Mr. Smith drew his hand across his forehead, swept
the line of benches with a look of sorrow and pain, and sighed audibly.
There was plainly no doubt at all in the chairman’s mind as to the
substantial truth of the charge. It was but too clear that a treacherous
blow had been struck at the fair fame of the Triangular League, and at
those ideals of sportsmanship which were ever the objects of President
John’s highest solicitude. But Anglo-Saxon justice has established the
principle that the worst criminal has a right to be heard in his own
defence. Mr. Smith turned therefore to the bench on his left, and with
the manner of a judge asking the convicted felon whether he has any
statement to make before sentence is passed, invited the representatives
from Westcott’s to make response.

Sumner had prepared no speech; he lacked, moreover, as he would himself
assert, all talent for impromptu oratory. But he could tell a plain
story with candor and simplicity, and there spoke in his tones an honest
conviction, which would inspire belief if the listening ears were
attuned to such a voice. He denied with all the vigor he could put into
words that Westcott’s had bought or stolen or had any previous knowledge
of the Newbury signals. Callahan _had_ approached one of the Westcott
players and offered to betray the signals, but Westcott’s had scorned
the offer. The address which the Newbury spy had discovered was thrown
away, not dropped. In the game Westcott’s had learned a few signals by
listening to them as they were given by the Newbury quarter, but before
the game began, they had absolutely no knowledge of the signals to be
used by their opponents.

“I should like to know, then, how it happened that it was the old
signals, not the new ones, that you found out,” began Newbold, savagely,
as Sumner dropped back into his seat.

“If that was the case,” answered Sumner, “it was merely chance. All we
got was three or four numbers for holes.”

Newbold sniffed. “I should like to ask something else, too,” he
continued. “You’ve played football and you know what the excitement is
in a game. Do you think it is an easy thing to detect a lot of unknown
signals while the game is going on?”

“No, I don’t,” answered Sumner, calmly, “but you could get a few if they
were given as openly as yours were.”

“They weren’t given openly!”

At this point, perhaps in the interest of peace, Mr. Snyder interposed
with a question. “What has Callahan to say about this? Have you his
statement?”

Sumner recounted the futile efforts which Westcott’s had made to induce
the coach to give evidence, not concealing the fact that Callahan now
denied that he had offered any signals at all.

At this frank admission Newbold gave vent to a nervous titter of
derision. President John smiled contemptuously. “Your stories do not
hang together, Mr. Sumner,” he said.

“One story is ours and the other is Callahan’s,” answered Sumner,
quickly. “They can’t hang together if Callahan lies.”

Pete whispered into Sumner’s ear, “Ask Thorne about it!”

“Ask him yourself!”

Talbot got upon his feet. “We’ve been answering questions for a while,
now I think it’s our turn to ask a few. I want Thorne to tell us whether
we recognized any signals on his side of the line.”

“Yes,” answered Thorne.

“How many?”

“I am sure of one, the play outside tackle.”

“Was it in the first or last part of the game?”

“The last.”

“Was it an old signal or a new one?”

“A new one.”

“I think he’s mistaken about that,” cried Newbold, and he applied
himself immediately with angry exhortations to his colleague’s ear.
Thorne reddened under the attack, but did not retreat.

“You see, it was just as Sumner said,” commented Talbot, addressing the
central bench. “We picked up a few signals during the game. Callahan
couldn’t have given us that tackle signal, if we had asked him.”

“Unfortunately it isn’t a question of one signal, but of many,” said
President John, quickly. “You ask us to believe what the football
experts assure us is impossible.”

“If you have a fool quarter-back, anything is possible,” retorted
Talbot. “When three plays out of four in succession are sent at the same
hole with only a slight alteration in the signal, a fellow must be an
idiot not to guess what the signal means!” Pete stopped short there, for
Sumner pulled him down.

“We didn’t do that!” snapped Newbold.

Again Mr. Snyder interfered. “I think we may as well vote now,” he said.
“We have heard both sides.”

“Yes, vote!” muttered Talbot. “That’s what we’re here for! It’s no use
to waste time on the truth if you’ve already made up your minds not to
accept it.” The words were spoken too low to carry distinctly, a
prudence which must be credited to the restraining influence of Sumner’s
clutch upon the speaker’s knee.

“We will take the vote then,” announced the chairman, in accents of
genuine relief; but he added immediately, “Unless some one has
additional evidence to present or questions to ask.”

“I think further discussion would be unprofitable,” said Mr. Snyder,
quickly. “Newbury has made a charge and Westcott’s has denied it. It
only remains for us to give our decision.”

To this sentiment the general silence gave consent.

PRESIDENT JOHN had his ballots ready. “I will distribute blank slips of
paper,” he said, “and Mr. Frost will kindly gather up the votes. Those
who think that the protest should be sustained will write ‘Yes’ upon
their ballots, the others will write ‘No.’”

He descended from his throne and paraded along the line, distributing
blank ballots with a great show of solemnity. Those which he put into
the hands of the Newbury delegates could hardly be called blank, as they
had the word “Yes” written clearly upon them. The great chief was
determined to reduce the chances of error to a minimum. Presently Frost
gathered up the momentous tickets and delivered them into the hands of
the chairman.

“Four to two against us!” whispered Talbot, as Mr. Smith began to
separate the ballots. A squeeze upon his knee was all the answer Sumner
vouchsafed. An instant after, they were both intently watching the
president, across whose face, bent eagerly over the desk, swept an
expression of astonishment and indignation.

“I think there has been a misunderstanding here,” he said slowly, as he
lifted his eyes to the occupants of the Newbury bench. Newbold returned
his look with a stare of fright and curiosity, but Thorne was gazing out
of the window. “On one ballot ‘Yes’ had been first written and
afterwards changed to ‘No.’ It is possible that I did not make myself
entirely clear. I think we had better take another vote.” And he
repeated once more the conditions of the balloting.

This time all the slips given out were blank. Thorne wrote his, holding
it in front of him in the palm of his hand. Newbold peeped over his
shoulder, uttered an exclamation and snatched at the ballot, but Thorne
repulsed him with a quick uplift of the elbow and dropped the vote in
the hat. The chairman sorted the ballots in feverish haste, his cheeks
dark with gathering wrath. Then, rising to his feet, he darted a furious
glance at Thorne, who met it bravely.

“The protest is not sustained,” he announced with an effort at calmness.

“What is the vote?” asked Frost.

The chairman made unwilling answer, “Five to one.”

Pete’s hand fell with a resounding slap on Sumner’s shoulder. “Five to
one!” he whispered, exultant; “Thorne voted with us! Isn’t he a corker
to do that?”

“Five to one,” repeated Mr. Snyder. “It is too bad it couldn’t have been
unanimous. I should like to say before we separate that this whole
affair seems to me in the highest degree ill-advised and unfortunate.
Unless we respect each other sufficiently to trust in each other’s
honesty and honor, we have no right to be leagued together. To encourage
accusations like these we have heard to-day without incontrovertible
proofs to support them is in itself an act of treachery to the League. I
hope we shall never be compelled to discuss such a question again.”

The meeting was over. President John was jerking on his coat and
savagely stamping his feet into his overshoes. Sumner and Talbot, having
exchanged congratulatory grips, were pouring out fervent expressions of
gratitude to their friends from Trowbridge, who had believed them honest
men, not liars and cheats. At the moment of adjournment Thorne had taken
his hat, and without a word to friend or foe, had slipped through the
door. Newbold, following closely after, overtook him in the hall.

“That’s right! Run away and hide yourself, you traitor!” shouted the
captain, his voice trembling with rage.

Thorne swung sharply round. “I’m not hiding from _you_, anyway,” he said
coolly. “What have you got to say about it?”

“I say you’re a disgrace to the school. First you threw us by letting on
that that tackle signal was a new one, and then you voted against us,
against your own school!”

“I told the truth, and I voted for what I thought was right!”

“What you thought was right!” sneered Newbold. “You voted that way just
to get in with those Westcott fellows, that’s what you did it for. But
you won’t succeed. No one respects a traitor, least of all those who use
him!”

This was a shot which wounded, not because it was true, but because it
suggested a despicable motive for an act prompted solely by scruples of
conscience. Thorne started as if pricked by a pin.

“That’s a lie, Tom Newbold, and you know it!” he flung back hotly,
advancing a step toward his assailant. “I’m not trying to get in with
any one, not even with you. I did it because I believe in getting games
by winning ’em, not by stealing ’em.”

The captain clenched his fists and glared. “You won’t get the chance to
win any more on _my_ team, I can tell you that. No team is big enough to
hold us two, after to-day’s work!”

“All right!” returned Thorne, who had recovered his self-control. “I’ll
consider myself fired.”

On escaping from the council chamber, Talbot spent half a dollar of
precious allowance money in telephoning to various people the happy
result of the meeting. Later, he went home and devoted the hour before
dinner to composing a letter to Thorne, which should express his
admiration of Thorne’s honesty and courage. It was a difficult letter to
write, because it was necessary to praise Thorne without condemning his
schoolmates, for Thorne was not one to listen with pleasure to abuse of
his associates by an outsider. As Thorne did not answer this letter,
Talbot concluded that he must have bungled it.

In fact, Talbot’s honest eulogy was one of the influences which enabled
Thorne to face the unpleasantness of the next two days at school with
head high and colors flying. He did not answer the letter because under
the circumstances he did not wish to have any correspondence with
Westcott’s. The Newbold party did their best to set the ban upon him in
school, to brand him as a traitor and expose him to public contempt. The
means employed to accomplish this purpose, the misrepresentation, the
distorted version of the proceedings at the meeting, spread broadcast,
the gathering of an anti-Thorne party by promises and threats, all might
interest us, if it belonged in the story. It is the result alone that
concerns this narrative. The movement was ill-timed. After two days of
practice with a substitute tackle in Thorne’s position, the practical
politicians forced the hands of the extremists. On the morning of the
Trowbridge-Newbury game, Newbold, driven to the hated course by the
overwhelming demand of the school, went morosely to Thorne’s house to
ask him to forgive and forget and take his old place in the game.

It was too late; Thorne had gone out of town with his father for the
day. So Newbury fared to Trowbridge, spiritless through dissensions, and
weakened by the absence of the best defensive player in school.
Trowbridge met them with a fresh, well-fused eleven, opposed harmony and
dash to disunion and blind resistance, got the jump on their adversaries
in the line three times out of four, made first downs through the weak
tackles almost at will,—and piled up three touch-downs while Newbury
was securing one lucky goal from the field.

Alderman Skillen left the field in the middle of the second half,
disgusted with football and those who had fanned his interest in it.
When the score reached seventeen, President John followed the alderman’s
example. Newbold, having suffered the humiliation of defeat on the
field, returned to school to face cold looks and hear contemptuous
comments, and to see Thorne treated as a victim of jealousy who might
have saved the day if he had only been allowed to play.

But the worst blow was dealt in the meeting for the election of next
year’s captain, when the team not only rejected Newbold’s
candidate—Newbold himself was a senior—but actually elected Thorne by
a seventy per cent vote. And the fickle school loudly acclaimed the
choice.

TO Sumner more than to any one else of the Westcott School was due the
fine spirit of caution and determination with which the eleven faced the
momentous game with Trowbridge. He had not slackened for a moment his
devotion to the team from which, according to Stover, he had been
ignominiously fired. He had watched the Trowbridge-Newbury contest with
a sharp eye and an open note-book. The newspapers remarked after the
game that Trowbridge had gained on end runs and tackle plays and lost on
kicks; and that Ricker, the Trowbridge back, was the star of the game.
Sumner had not been content with any such general impressions. He had
observed how the plays were started behind the line, what holes were
relied on for emergencies, who was most likely to fumble punts, and in
precisely what way Ricker’s interference formed and hit the line. During
the last week of practice, his second team was an imitation Trowbridge,
with Trowbridge end runs and genuine Ricker dashes. The Ricker of the
Westcott second was alumnus Bill Ellery, Harvard junior, who could cover
the two-twenty in twenty-three, and started like a deer. Two active old
Westcottites from across the Charles personated Trowbridge tackles, and
another guarded right end. Yards practiced his linesmen in breaking
straight through, with a spring and a dart and a slap of the open hand
against the opponent’s headguard; he forced them to make gripping
tackles on the slippery dummy; he taught them how to master, not to
kill, the men in front of them; he furnished practicable plays adapted
to the powers of the team, and drilled the players in signals until
obedience was automatic—but it was Sumner who prepared them for Ricker
and the deceptive end runs.

“This last week’s work has been the best of all,” said Yards, the
evening before the game. “If Pete’s knee holds out, we ought to be able
to put up a pretty good offence, and Sumner’s second has developed our
defence wonderfully.”

“And he won’t even make his W!” lamented Harrison.

“No, he won’t!” answered Yards, who could afford to be outspoken now
that the end of the season was at hand. “On every point of the game
McDowell is better.”

“Then you don’t think there’s any chance for Jack to get in?” asked
Harrison, wistfully.

Yards shook his head. “Not unless Mac is laid out or we get a big lead.”

[Illustration: REGULAR WESTCOTT DEFENCE—OPEN (Outside thirty-yard
line)]

Harrison smiled feebly at the sarcasm of this last suggestion. There was
about as much chance of getting a big lead on Trowbridge as that Mac
would make half a dozen goals from the field or that Bumpus would find
big Hubbard an easy victim; while it was quite within the range of
probability that Pete would injure his knee again and deprive the team
of its only good punter, or that some accident would befall Eaton or
Hardie or some other strong player whose place no one could fill.
Subconsciously he shared the view prevalent in school that Trowbridge
was likely to win, though he did not admit the possibility even to
himself. He had never wholly approved the system of open defence which
Yards had adopted from the Harvard theorists. To one used to a solid
line of bodies before the ball it seemed a reckless scheme to pull the
centre out of his place and put him behind the line, thus leaving open,
in the wall of defence, an avenue wide enough for a cart. He could see
that this method of resistance strengthened the wings, through which the
longest gains are made, and rendered it possible to keep two backs in
reserve for on-side kicks and forward passes; but would not this open
highway through centre furnish an easy route for heavy plunges? Yards
maintained that if Ford and the guards would but watch the play
carefully, the gains through centre could be made unprofitably small;
yet Harrison’s doubts, though unuttered, were none the less real.

[Illustration: REGULAR TROWBRIDGE DEFENCE—CLOSED]

Roger Hardie’s heart was beating quick with eagerness to get into the
play, when Talbot opened the game by sending the ball spinning down to
the lower corner of the field. Cowles took it on the bounce, and had
worked it back fifteen yards before he ran into Eaton’s arms. Through
the centre highway Ricker pushed for five yards before Ford and Talbot
reached him and brought him down. Another assault at the same place gave
a first down. The open defence was showing its weak side. Then they
sought a hole outside Bumpus, but Bumpus got free and threw the runner
into Talbot’s hands. Another dash at centre yielded two yards, and with
five to gain Cowles punted. Mac took the ball safely on his thirty-yard
line, and sent Horr twice against the Trowbridge right flank behind
Eaton and Hardie, each time gaining five yards; and Bradford once just
inside Harrison, who, tugging with Tracy and supported by Talbot behind,
dragged the runner eight yards before the Trowbridge men pulled him
down. A tandem through right guard yielded a first down. After that an
end run was blocked with the loss of a yard through the quickness of the
Trowbridge tackle, and Mac decided to kick.

Pete’s punt, which was got off so quickly that the defence was hardly
ready for it, went diagonally down the field, and, by rolling out at the
Trowbridge thirty-yard line, prevented any running back. Trowbridge
tried an end run from a fake kick, but Harrison was not deceived, and
threw the runner behind the line. Then recourse was had to punting once
more, but the back was slow in getting off his kick, and Bumpus, who had
slapped his way through the line and leaped wildly in the air in the
path of the ball, took it on his chest and beat it down to the ground.
Three men threw themselves at it as it struck, and buried it deep under
struggling brown bodies; but the one who lay closest to it, hugging it
ecstatically in his arms, proved to be the Westcott left end.

The wave of the referee’s hand which moved the measurers down was the
signal for shrill whoops from the excited band of youngsters in the
Westcott cheering section. Sumner on the side-lines flung his arms about
the coach in a transport of delight.

“Our ball on the fifteen-yard line!” he cried jubilantly. “We’ve got ’em
now!”

“Don’t be too sure,” answered Yards, who, though just as eager, had
himself under better control. “It’s a hard fifteen yards to cover.”

The players were in position now, nerved for the great struggle. Behind
their forwards, the Trowbridge backs stood in a line of three. Each
linesman recognized that the success or failure of the next play might
depend on the quickness with which he leaped. The signal which rang out
in Mac’s clear, sharp voice called for a tandem play between left tackle
and guard, with Talbot carrying the ball. Eaton, straining to get the
jump on his antagonist, moved before the ball, and was off side. The
umpire blew his horn; the referee counted back five yards; the lines
formed again.

“O dear!” groaned Sumner. “What’ll he do now?—I believe he’s going to
try a drop!”

“It’s a fake,” said Yards, composedly. “He’d try another down if he
meant to do that.”

McDowell was back holding out his hands, the backs had taken the
formation for interference. Ford passed, but it was Talbot who received
the ball and made a short, quick kick over the right side of the line.
Harrison charged after it with all his speed, but Ricker beat him in the
sprint, took the ball on the bounce, and ran round the Westcott captain
for a gain of fifteen yards before Talbot forced him out of bounds.

From his chagrin at this failure Sumner was aroused by a loud chuckle of
mirth close behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, and his eyes met
the exultant gaze of President John.

“Wasted his chance,” remarked the dignitary, with an oily grin of
recognition. “I’m afraid he won’t get another.” Sumner nodded and moved
down the line.

And now the Trowbridge men, taking courage from their escape, began to
put new life into their play. Ricker shot through centre and squirmed
forward ten yards. His second attempt was blocked by Ford and Channing
after a short gain. Then a trick was sprung; the guards, tackles, and
ends moved out suddenly six paces, leaving the centre all alone before
the ball, with a great space on either side of him. The movement was
supposed first to confuse the enemy, then to draw them out of position
so as to leave a big hole near the centre, or to furnish a close
interference for a run at end. But the Westcott rushers, having had
experience with this very play as practiced by Sumner’s eleven, took it
coolly as a matter of course, went through evenly along the line, and
downed the dangerous Ricker before he got well under way. On the third
down Trowbridge tried a forward pass on a crisscross formation, but Horr
blocked off the end, and the ball, striking the ground, fell once more
to Westcott’s. McDowell wasted a down in a fruitless effort to push
Bradford through centre, and Horr fumbled. Trowbridge made seven yards
and kicked, Talbot punted back, and for ten minutes the play oscillated
between the thirty-yard lines.

At last—it seemed to Sumner that the half must be nearly at an end—a
rash attempt on the part of Trowbridge to gain four yards after a third
down gave Westcott’s the ball fifty yards from their opponents’ goal.
Mac, who had by this time “sized up” the Trowbridge defence, now ceased
experimenting, and applied his whole mental power to the task of
matching the strong points of his team against the weaknesses of the
foe. On the defence, Trowbridge played the centre in the line, with but
a single line half-back. The Westcott quarter brought his end over, and
drove his backs outside tackle and outside end, now on the short side,
now on the long, gaining satisfactory distances at each stroke.
Presently a second Trowbridge back came up to support the line, leaving
the back-field clear. Mac recognized this opportunity for a forward
pass, and seized it. Pete’s long spiral throw fell into Eaton’s hands on
the enemy’s twenty-yard line. It was a close shave, for Cowles was upon
him as he leaped for the ball, but Eaton held it, though he was thrown
hard. A crash through centre, a skin-tackle play, a split play on a
delayed pass, and Westcott’s brought up at the third down on the
Trowbridge thirteen-yard line with three yards to gain, the enemy’s
linesmen on their knees, and their whole back-field pushed up to support
them.

But two minutes remained. If the ball were lost now, the opportunity to
score would go. Harrison shouted a signal from his end. McDowell nodded,
and fell back to a kicking position, giving his signals clearly as he
went.

“Look out for an on-side kick!” yelled the Trowbridge captain. “Get
through on them now!”

While he spoke, the ball went back. The line in the centre swerved, but
held; the Trowbridge ends, followed by the tackles, swooped down upon
the waiting quarter, but the Westcott backs blocked them off from the
danger zone. Mac got his drop away safely, and, holding his breath,
watched the ball floating upward beyond the reach of human hands. It
crossed the bar three feet inside the post.

The play during the rest of the half was comprehended in two kicks.
Trowbridge sent the ball on the kick-off deep into Westcott territory;
and Talbot on the first down punted it far back.

Sumner, dancing with joy round Mike and the water pail, found himself
again in the presence of the lord of the league.

“What about that chance that wasn’t coming?” he asked, with a sudden
accession of friendliness.

“The game isn’t over,” answered President John, sourly. “A single
touch-down will wipe that gain out.”

At the dressing rooms the usual discussion of the developments of the
game was going forward. The bedraggled players, their mud-streaked faces
aglow with hope, lay stretched on the floor about the coach, listening
eagerly to his last directions. In one corner, Duane, of the Harvard
Second, was explaining to Bumpus how, by proper use of his knee, he
could hold Hubbard on the offence at least a second longer. Yards,
having finished his general exhortation, drew McDowell aside to talk
over with him the strategy of the second half, which was, in brief, to
play safely, keep the ball in opponents’ territory, and watch for
chances.

“If we hold them well, you’ll put in Sumner at the last, won’t you?” Mac
asked.

“Not with the score three to nothing,” answered Yards, quickly.

“If we should make a touch-down, then?” persisted Mac.

The coach hesitated a moment before replying, but when he spoke, there
was no uncertainty in his words. “It wouldn’t be safe. Sumner is a good
fellow, and he’s worked hard for the team, but we’re playing the game to
win, not to give good fellows a chance to make their W’s. I sha’n’t take
any risks.”

The Westcott players trotted forth at the call, determined to make at
the outset such a show of power and dash as would put Trowbridge
immediately on the defensive. The Trowbridge rushers strung out across
the field on a line with the ball. Westcott’s took the usual defensive
positions, the centre ten yards back from the ball, the guards flanking
him, but behind, the tackles outside the guards and still farther back.
Cowles ran forward for his kick-off, but instead of driving the ball to
the limit of his powers down the field, he sent it with a little stab of
his foot diagonally across toward the side-line. It struck the line
outside the Westcott left guard. Bumpus, perplexed at the unexpected
play, hesitated a moment before he leaped for the ball. His hesitation
cost his side dear, for two Trowbridge rushers crashed into him before
he had taken three steps, and the Trowbridge end flung himself on the
ball just ahead of Eaton, who pounced upon him like a wild beast upon
his prey. Trowbridge had gained the ball on Westcott’s forty-yard line!

Sumner’s heart was like lead, as he saw the Trowbridge line open in wide
gaps for a trick play. If the Westcott rushers lost their heads now,
there was no hope for the team. But a line that sifts evenly through,
with each man keeping well within his own territory, is a hard line to
work tricks upon; and a strong, aggressive tackle is a dangerous
obstacle to end plays. The Westcott line did sift evenly through, and
Eaton was a good tackle—so good, indeed, that he burst straight into
the Trowbridge interference, and, hooking the runner with a long reach,
swung him directly into Hardie’s arms. The next play, which was directed
at the open centre, was spoiled by Bumpus, who burned to retrieve
himself, before it had advanced three yards. Then, with six yards to
gain, Cowles drew back for a kick.

“Fake!” shouted Harrison. “Look out for a forward pass!”

His warning proved false; it served only to check his own line, and give
Cowles a better opportunity to get off his kick. He punted high and with
such splendid accuracy that the ball fell at the Westcott six-yard line.
McDowell stood under it as it came down, holding his hand high aloft and
claiming the privilege of a fair catch. All about him thronged the
menacing Trowbridge forwards, ready to seize the ball and carry it
across the line should Mac fail to hold it.

“I’m glad I’m not there!” thought the anxious Sumner. “I’d fumble it
sure! If it should slip out of his hands, now—”

But it didn’t. As calmly as if he were in mid field with no one near to
disturb him, Mac gathered in the descending ball and heeled his mark.
Twenty seconds later Pete’s long punt rolled out at the Westcott
forty-five-yard line.

Again Westcott’s held Trowbridge to a seven-yards gain in two downs, and
Trowbridge, as a last resort, tried a complicated forward pass; but
Tracy worked through on the end who had come round to make the pass, and
threw him before he could complete it. Now, for the first time during
the half, the Westcott lads took the offence, though Mac still preferred
to rely on Talbot’s foot. Down sailed the ball to the Trowbridge
twenty-yard line, only to be kicked back beyond the centre of the field
a few minutes later. Here for some minutes the play wavered within the
neutral zone. On the exchange of punts there was little advantage except
that gained by

[Illustration: SWUNG HIM DIRECTLY INTO HARDIE’S ARMS.]

Hardie and Harrison as they dodged down the field under the kicks, and
nailed the receiver of the ball at his first step; but on the rushes
Westcott’s covered more ground, and the play gradually drew near the
Trowbridge end of the field.

A series of successful line plunges had brought the Westcott offence to
the Trowbridge twenty-yard line, when the referee announced at the third
down that four yards of the necessary ten were still lacking. Mac
conferred with Harrison, and, falling back to the kicking position,
knelt at Talbot’s side. The quarter caught Ford’s pass, but instead of
placing the ball for a kick, he waited until the Trowbridge men were
sweeping down upon him, when he passed to Talbot, who threw the ball in
a long spiral that bored its way through the air far over the left side
of the line. Hardie was ready to receive it, and so was Ricker. They
came together with a shock, but Ricker was short and Roger tall, and the
Westcott man clutched the ball over his rival’s head, as the latter
tumbled him to the ground. The eight yards to the goal line Pete covered
in two downs.

Sumner did not see the goal kicked; he was coasting along the side-lines
in search of his friend Smith. He found him at last, just as the elevens
were changing ends, standing alone near the corner of the field.

“Great game, sir!” offered Sumner, politely.

“I call it a very poor game,” answered President John, staring straight
before him. “That Trowbridge line is rotten.”

“It’s hard to understand how they could beat Newbury seventeen to
three,” remarked Sumner, cheerfully. “About time enough left for another
touch-down, isn’t there?”

Smith made no reply to this question, unless a scowl and an
unintelligible exclamation could be construed as a reply. But even thus
Sumner seemed to consider the conversation worth while, for as he
hurried back to the side of the Westcott coach, he was bubbling with
glee.

With the score nine to nothing and the game nearly over, there seemed no
serious doubt as to the outcome. So thought Mac, at least, when Harrison
recovered the ball on a fumble near his fifty-yard line, and Pete punted
down close to the Trowbridge goal. It was high time that Sumner should
appear if he was to be sent into the game at all, but Yards made no move
to send him. Mac considered the matter at intervals, while he stood far
back waiting for his friends in the line to gain possession of the ball.
The result of his consideration was to arouse in his mind the suspicion
that Yards was working, not for a safe victory, but for a score which
would leave no doubt as to the success of his coaching.

“Jack deserves a chance, and he is going to get it!” muttered Mac to
himself. “If it can’t come one way, it shall another.”

The Westcott defence had just thrown back another attempt at a
skin-tackle play, and Harrison signalled to his quarter to be ready for
a kick. Mac was under the ball when it came down, and slipping by the
end, zigzagged a dozen yards up the field before he succumbed to two
hard Trowbridge tacklers. Ford came puffing back and took the ball from
his hand; but Mac, instead of scrambling to his feet and calling out his
signals as the team gathered, remained squirming on the ground.

“What’s the matter?” asked Harrison, anxiously, as he knelt beside him.

“My right ankle!” groaned Mac, twisting his face into an expression of
frightful pain.

Time was called; Mike appeared with his water pail and sponge, closely
followed by Yards. Together they rubbed the injured joint, while Mac
writhed and moaned.

“How much time is left?” he asked.

“Three minutes.”

“I’ll see if I can stand.”

Yards and Harrison lifted the sufferer to his feet. He took a step with
his right foot, rested his weight on it,—and went down in a heap.

“Do you think it’s broken?” asked the coach in alarm.

“I guess not,” replied Mac, transforming a grin into a grimace, “but
you’ll have to send Jack in.”

Yards called for Sumner, and the maimed quarter went hobbling off the
field, supported by Yards and Louis Tracy, and saluted by a booming
salvo from the graduates, and an impassioned cheer from the schoolboy
section. Yards proposed to send him directly to the dressing rooms and
call in a physician, but Mac pleaded piteously to be allowed to see the
game out. So he stood at the side-lines, leaning on Louis’s shoulder.

“We should have made another touch-down if you hadn’t got hurt,” said
the coach, in a resentful tone, as Horr at the first signal was pushed
through outside Ben Tracy for a gain of five yards. “We had ’em on the
run.”

“Jack will do just as well,” answered Mac, calmly. “He’s better on the
offence than I am.”

In truth, Sumner had the advantage over Mac in some respects. He was
heavier, he got into the plays better, and he profited by his close
study of the game from the side-lines. The team reacted to a fresh
voice, while Sumner’s strength, applied at the critical instant, helped
to break the resistance and roll the wedge along. Outside guard, outside
tackle, around the end, changing his attack from side to side, Sumner
pushed his backs to a first down, to another, to a third. Then, when the
Trowbridge secondary defence concentrated close behind the line, he
worked a forward pass himself, running backward to make sure of his
throw, and delivering the ball safely into Tracy’s hands. Westcott’s was
on the Trowbridge ten-yard line, pressing hotly forward, when the
referee’s whistle put an end to the game.

Mac lingered on the side-lines, waiting for an opportunity to
congratulate Sumner on his playing. As they walked together to the
dressing rooms, escorted by a half-dozen admiring youngsters, the
injured quarter forgot to limp. Close by the entrance Yards accosted
them.

“You ran the team finely, Sumner,” he exclaimed, with radiant face.
Then, suddenly recalling Mac’s misfortune, he turned upon him and
demanded, “How’s that ankle?”

“It seems all right now,” replied Mac, with an abrupt lapse from his
gayety.

Yards gave him a sharp glance, and his eyes darkened ominously. “I
believe you—” he began, but the beseeching look on Mac’s face checked
him. “I’m glad it’s no worse,” he finished lamely.