THE WEAKENED HEART

THE rest of the day Roger spent in moping, fuming, and intermittent
attempts to divert himself by reading or work. Feeling wholly without
appetite, he did not go down to luncheon when the bell rang. As a
consequence Mr. Adams came up, inquired sympathetically about his
condition, and proposed to telephone for a physician. But a physician
was, at that moment, the last person that Roger desired to see; he could
not reconcile himself to the thought of submitting his dearly cherished
hopes to the decision of some bigoted foe of rowing who would condemn
him on principle and flatter himself that he had saved another body from
destruction. He had passed the Athletic Association doctor at the
beginning of the season; why was not that enough to satisfy his mother’s
requirement?

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said, avoiding Mr. Adams’s eye. “I’m
just a little off my feed. I shall be all right by to-night.”

“It’s always better to attend to these things at the outset,” rejoined
the teacher. “The doctor wouldn’t hurt you.”

“I don’t want him!” persisted Roger, fretfully. “He’d just stir me up.”

Mr. Adams observed him with curiosity. Here was a childish
unreasonableness which he had never before seen in Roger Hardie. “I’ll
wait till to-night, then. Isn’t there something Mrs. Adams or I could do
to make you more comfortable? Shouldn’t you like something to read, or
some one to read to you?”

Roger thanked him, but thought he should take a little nap and then
perhaps go for a walk. So Mr. Adams was induced to leave, and Roger lay
back on his couch, with eyes staring wide open and thoughts pounding
hard. He had staved off the doctor for a time at least.

As he lay there assuring himself that nothing could be the matter with
his heart and that he should certainly be quite well by night, reviling
himself for being such a fool as to fall ill on the eve of a race and
vowing that he would row anyway, Dunn came softly in on new rubber-soled
shoes. He was going to Cambridge to see the Harvard-Princeton game, but
before he went he wanted to express his sympathy and offer consolation.
Dunn did not use these trite expressions nor did he talk like a phrase
book of etiquette, but he meant well and Roger understood him. The
consolation took the form of a lurid, six weeks’ novel which Dunn
commended as “pretty fair.” An hour with this pretty fair tale of
Jason’s lending was about all Roger could stand; he threw it down gladly
when Mike appeared to invite him to go out and watch the game between
the Weary-Willies and the Easy-Resters which Mike was to umpire.

He fared forth, therefore, with Mike, and established himself at the
shady end of the players’ bench, prepared to be quietly amused. Dickie
Sumner thrust a sheet of paper and a pencil into his hand and bade him
keep score. It was a great game and most amusing, but totally devoid of
quiet. The Easy-Resters rested not at all, but tore up and down the foul
lines, jeering at the battery of their opponents and abusing the umpire.
The Weary-Willies answered unweariedly jeer for jeer. When, in the
middle of the fifth inning, the E-R’s assaulted Mike, and, sweeping him
off the field, dragged Roger out to take his place, the new umpire could
not for the life of him determine whether the score stood seven to six
in favor of the E-R’s or six to five for the W-W’s. So he left Mike to
continue the score after his own fashion, and devoted himself to
securing order on the diamond and enforcing his decisions by threats of
injury from the baseball bat with which he had armed himself.

The game was over, and the players were arguing noisily about the
score—Mike had made the E-R’s pay dearly for the violence offered to
the sacred person of the umpire—before Roger bethought himself of his
illness. He was apprised of it now by a sensation of faintness, and a
startling dizziness that fell upon him suddenly and for the moment
frightened him with the fear that he was the victim of one of the
“spells” to which, as he vaguely knew, people with weak hearts are
subject. But the fear was overborne by a fierce determination that
surged up in a defiant flood, insisting that the undesired was the
untrue. It was not his heart! His heart was as strong as any one’s,
whatever his father might fancy. He would not be ill, he would row! He
set his teeth and clenched his fists and steered his way straight for
the house. There he threw himself into a chair in the common room, and
taking up a paper, turned to the sports page, on which a reporter had
given his opinion as to the probable outcome of the schoolboy races.
Newbury was picked for first place, with a good fighting chance for
Bainbridge Latin,—both coached by Lanning. Westcott’s was the best of
the Caffrey crews, but did not look like a winner; the Back Bay boys
rowed in good form, but they lacked the power of the big men in the
other boats. While form was unquestionably an important element in the
success of a crew, mere style could never take the place of endurance
and strength.

So much Roger at last comprehended after several readings and with much
effort to control his trembling hands and wavering eyes. He put down the
paper in disgust, and resting his heavy head on his hand, mingled in a
dizzy confusion despairing self-reproach and genuine prayers for help.

The dizziness had worn off, but the weakness still remained, and the
consciousness of this weakness undermined the props of determination as
fast as they were set up. The boys were gathering for dinner; they threw
curious and not unsympathetic glances at the disconsolate figure in the
lounging chair, and talked in tones uncommonly subdued of the effect
Hardie’s illness would have on the chances of the crew. Presently Felton
came in from the long corridor, surveyed the room, and catching sight of
Hardie in the chair slapped him roughly on the shoulder.

Roger started and shot a menacing look at the offender. “What’s the
matter with you?”

“What’s the matter with _you_?” retorted Felton. “Pete wants you at the
telephone.”

Roger dragged himself to the telephone. “Is that you, Roger?” sounded
Talbot’s clear voice.

“Yes.”

“How are you? They told me this afternoon that you were under the
weather. You aren’t going to be sick, are you?”

“No, it’s all right. I’m better to-night.”

“That’s good. Be careful what you eat, and get to bed early. We can’t
afford to lose you. They assigned places this afternoon for the trials.
We got the outside.”

“That’s bad, isn’t it?”

“I’m afraid so. There won’t be any current to help us, and a head wind
would set us back a lot. They’re counting on our weakening at the
finish. They don’t know us. I’m not afraid of any weakening in the first
boat now that Pitkin is out.”

Roger groaned audibly. “What’s that?” asked Talbot.

“Where’s Newbury?” substituted Roger.

“Inside, next to the wall. Smithy got that arranged all right.”

“How does he come in?”

“How does he come into anything? Pulls wires and works his friends in
the B.A.A. He’ll be on the referee’s launch in some official capacity,
I’ll bet my head. I’m willing to let Newbury beat us in the trials, but
we must make second place so as to get into the finals. I should like to
save our strength as much as possible for the real thing. We ought to
find Brookfield High and Boston Latin pretty easy; they are the others
in our heat.”

“That’s right; our second could put it over either of them.”

“Well, take good care of yourself. Remember about eating and getting to
bed. Good-by.”

Roger hung up the receiver and returned to the common room. The talk
with Pete had put new life into him. Excited by the news and the
prospect, he thought of his illness only as something which he had
really left behind him, and which might be wholly disregarded. His
mother’s instruction as to the examination of his heart he would not
consider just now. There must be some way out of the dilemma. He must
row, whatever happened; on that he was determined.

The dining-room doors opened just as he came down the corridor, and
Roger went in with the first rush. Acting on the assumption that he was
well, and hungry from a day’s fasting, he fell to greedily. Soup, roast,
vegetables, pudding, fruit—he took them all, like any of the
perpetually hollow boys who called the food at Adams’s “bum,” yet
devoured it like cormorants. Mr. Adams was not at dinner; if he had been
there he must have marked with uneasiness the feverish glitter in
Roger’s eye and the abnormal convalescent’s appetite.

After dinner the company sallied forth to the playground, the younger
lads to indulge in a screaming game of scrub, the older ones to sit
round on the grass and watch Dunn trying to teach Cable to hold a
pitched ball. Dunn had declared that Cable should learn, and Cable had
declared that he couldn’t. In the contest Cable very clearly proved his
case—to Dunn’s disgust and the infinite amusement of the onlookers. The
sport terminated at half-past seven, when Jason, spying his tutor coming
across from the street, drove a particularly vicious in-curve at the
unfortunate Cable, who dodged the missile by an awkward sprawl, and
trudged submissively after it to the distant elm trees.

Roger followed Dunn into the house. For the last fifteen minutes a
sensation of approaching calamity had been growing upon him. The proud
spirit of defiance with which he had declared himself well had forsaken
him. His brain reeled under a dull, oppressive weight. The dinner which
he had so recklessly devoured seemed like a mass of hardening cement in
his stomach; his lips trembled, perspiration broke out on his forehead.
Utterly wretched, he dragged himself upstairs to his room and sank into
a chair by the open window.

“And you thought you could row!” he groaned. “You poor fool!”

And then he was sick, violently sick, with convulsions that shook his
whole frame, sending great throbs of pain crashing through his brain. He
dropped his clothes in a pile on the floor and crept into bed, where he
lay with cheek buried in the pillow, listening horrified to his own
heart beating “tub-up! tub-up! tub-up!” in his ear. There was no longer
any doubt of his condition. “It’s my heart!” he muttered wildly to
himself. “My heart has gone back on me. They knew more about it than I
did. I’m not fit to row!”

The head throbs subsided after a time, and Roger began to think. He
recalled certain occasions in his childhood when he had suffered from
sick headaches. His mother used to sit beside him then, holding his
hand, and, with her quiet, soothing presence, helping him to bear the
pain. He missed her now, terribly. He felt, too, that he had forfeited
his right to her ministrations; he had been disloyal to her, in intent
at least, when she had been steadfastly loyal to him. The very command
against which he had rebelled was proof of her sympathy, for it was the
result of her effort to save his rowing when his father would have
forbidden it out of hand. “She did her best for me,” he thought in keen
self-reproach, “and she trusted me, and I was going back on her. It’s
all up with the rowing now; I shall never sit in a boat again, but I’ll
have the examination if I ever get out of this, just to prove that I’m
what she thinks I am.”

This resolution brought him a certain composure. He ceased to mourn, and
presently fell asleep. The sun was already slanting down through his
open window when he awoke. Mr. Adams stood at the bedside.

“How do you feel this morning?” asked the master. “If sleep can cure
you, you ought to be well. You’ve slept over breakfast in spite of all
the noise.”

“I’m better,” answered Roger, who had profited by the interval to get
his bearings. “My head doesn’t ache any more, but I feel rather weak and
hollow.”

“We’ll send you up something to eat. What shall it be?”

“I think I’d better see a doctor before I eat anything,” replied the
boy, humbly. His attitude had changed over night.

Mr. Adams nodded approval to this sentiment. “That’s right. You ought to
have seen one yesterday. I’ll telephone for Dr. Brayton. In the meantime
I’ll have them send up a little toast. You can nibble on that if you
feel faint.”

The toast came, and Roger nibbled on it as long as it lasted. He felt
better, far better. The heart spell was evidently passing. Dunn came in
and sat on the bed for half an hour, telling a long tale of his tragedy
of hard work and not forgetting at its close to exhort the patient to
keep up his courage and get well before Wednesday. The exhortation drew
a strained smile to Roger’s face, such a smile as we assume to shield
from intruding eyes the knowledge of a hurt—and the hurt smarted long
after the complacent Jason had left the room.

Mike was the next visitor. He sat down with sober face in a chair
fronting the bed, and said nothing after his “Hello, Roger!” for some
time, though he stole occasional shy glances at his sad-eyed friend.

“Are you much sick?” he asked at length.

“I don’t know,” answered Roger. “The doctor will tell me when he comes.”

“Won’t it be terrible if you can’t row?” sighed the boy, his big eyes
soft with pity.

Roger squirmed. “It’ll be hard, of course, but if I can’t, I can’t.” He
tried to speak lightly, but the attempt was a failure.

There was silence again for a time. Mike looked obstinately down at the
cap which he was smoothing on his knee. Roger was thinking of his
condition and of the sacrifice which he was making. He felt so much
better this morning that had it not been for the fatal heart weakness,
he could have fancied himself within a few hours of complete recovery.
He should be like Trask, apparently perfectly well, but barred from
everything worth while—no more rowing, no more football, no more long
swims, or hard all-day tramps over the mountain peaks with the joy of
covering, between breakfast and supper, the score of steep miles which
the average tramper was happy to bring within the limits of two whole
days! Henceforth he must nurse himself and avoid over-exertion and be
content with golf or tennis, playing with girls, perhaps, or kids! What
a dreary, disgusting prospect!

“Pitkin shirks,” offered Mike, who had been pursuing his own train of
thought.

Roger stared for an instant without comprehension. Then, as he perceived
that practical Mike was worrying over the change in the first boat, he
answered hopefully, “He won’t shirk in the race; he’ll put in all he
has.”

“But he hasn’t the power.”

Before Roger could meet this objection, a knock was heard at the door.
As Mr. Adams came in with the doctor, Mike slipped away unnoticed. Dr.
Brayton sat down by the bedside, and in a very friendly, comrade-like
way asked the boy questions. Then he felt the patient’s pulse, looked at
his tongue, put the stethoscope to his chest, took his temperature.
Afterwards he drew out a little block in a neat leather case and wrote
on the top leaf certain mysterious words.

“What’s the matter?” asked Roger, with an anxious quaver in his voice.

“Over-eating and worry,” answered the doctor, laconically.

“Is it bad?”

The doctor smiled. “We shouldn’t call it a very serious case.”

“I mean my heart,” faltered Roger.

“Your heart! Have you had trouble with your heart?”

“No-o, but my father has a bad heart, and I could hear mine beat awfully
hard last night. I was afraid something was the matter with it.”

The doctor took up his instrument and again listened long and carefully.
Roger could feel his breath come and go with hurried, uneven pace as the
examination drew out. He was excited, anxious, shrinking from the truth
yet eager to know the worst. It seemed ten minutes before the doctor
folded up his stethoscope and returned it to his bag.

“What’s wrong with it?” demanded the boy, faintly, after waiting for
some seconds for the doctor to speak.

“Nothing. It’s perfectly normal.”

Roger gasped. “And it isn’t weak?”

“It’s as strong as a prize fighter’s. Your trouble is with the
digestion.”

“Shall I be laid up long?”

“Not if you obey directions. You’ll have to be careful for a day or
two.”

A wonderful change swept over the patient’s face. The dismal air of
resignation to an evil fate fell from him like a mask. His eyes flashed
bright with hope and eagerness. He popped into a sitting posture with a
quickness of recovery that would have delighted Caffrey’s heart, and
stretched out both hands toward the physician.

“Can I row on Wednesday? Oh, doctor, please say I can!”

Dr. Brayton laughed aloud. “Not if you act in that way. Lie down and
keep quiet, and do what you’re told.”

“I’ll do anything, starve or eat slops or lie here like a log till
Wednesday,” declared Roger, as he fell back again in obedience to
orders, “but you’ve got to make me well enough to row. You’ll do it,
won’t you?”

“We’ll see. Stay quietly in bed to-day, take only the nourishment which
I have ordered, and don’t get up to-morrow until I come. You must get
your strength back before you can think of rowing.”

For the rest of the day Roger lay in uneasy happiness, taking with
Fletcher-like deliberateness the sloppy messes that were brought to him,
receiving visitors as they drifted in after church, and kicking his legs
like a lusty infant. The burden of his despair had suddenly lifted as a
cloud cap lifts from a mountain peak and discloses miles of glorious,
sunny landscape that had seemed but a little before as hopelessly buried
in gloom as the peak itself. At times he could hardly restrain himself
from leaping forth from bed and dancing out his joy. In the afternoon,
when the fellows went off for walks, he took a nap; he awoke refreshed
and impatient to be moving. He obeyed his orders, however, helped out by
a book and the presence of various friendly souls who had time on their
hands and could talk indefinitely of nothing. At night he slept again
for long, unbroken hours.

In the morning the doctor came, looked him over, ordered a beefsteak for
his breakfast, and told him to go back to school. Roger ate the
beefsteak with the satisfaction of a hungry tramp who has chanced upon a
square meal after an experience of two days with dogs and crusts; but
before he left for school he slipped into the gymnasium and tried a
dozen strokes on the rowing machine.

It was all right; he was a little weak, but he could pull his old
stroke. He had two days in which to recover his strength.

PRESIDENT JOHN, glorious in apparel and self-importance, strutted along
the boat-house float, blowing cigarette smoke into the faces of waiting
oarsmen, playing the patronizing oracle to the newspaper men, and
juggling rowing terms for the benefit of everybody within earshot. What
strings the genius of the Triangular League had pulled with the Athletic
Association to obtain his appointment as race official we may not
inquire; of the fact there was no question. A certain Mr. Henderson
shared with him the responsibility of being judge at the finish, but the
glory of office President John took to himself. In his eyes Henderson
was but the zero which added to one makes ten. He himself was both the
one and the ten.

On a heap of sweaters in a corner of the open room of the boat-house lay
stretched the Westcott crews, awaiting, under pretence of calmness, the
moment for carrying out their boats. They could not start until the
arrival of the launch which was to bear the officials. Meantime various
friends who had smuggled themselves into the close quarters clustered
about to stay up their champions and divert their minds from the race.

“Ben has got his quinquereme out,” said Mike, coming in from a visit to
the float. “They’re rowing round here challenging everybody to race.”

“What’s the quinquereme?” asked Roger, raising himself on his elbow.

“It’s an old eight-oared ship’s cutter from some Spanish war vessel,
that Ben discovered down by the East Cambridge bridge,” explained Pete.
“He’s filled it full of fellows who want to see the races.”

“Why does he call it a quinquereme?”

“Because he likes the name, of course,” declared Eaton, laughing. “He
doesn’t care what it means. Fluffy and his gang have picked up a big
dory thing they call a bireme. They’re going to row the quinquereme.”

“That’s all over,” said Mike. “The quinquereme beat out the bireme and
the pair-oar. Tracy says he’s going to challenge the second next.”

“Let’s go out and see them,” proposed Roger. He raised himself into a
sitting position as if to carry out his suggestion, but Talbot pulled
him back.

“No, you don’t,” ordered the captain. “You aren’t here to amuse
yourself!”

Just then the cry arose that the launch was coming, and the
non-combatants crowded to the door. Through one of the wide arches of
the bridge, its parapet topped for a hundred yards by a dense row of
heads, the slender _Veritas_ was speeding down upon the boat-house.

“Second crew out!” commanded Talbot. McDowell and his men fetched their
oars from the corner and laid them side by side at the edge of the
float; then they brought out their boat, and, dropping it into the
water, fitted their oars into the locks and took their places. When toe
straps were well adjusted and the slides fully tested, friendly hands
laid hold of the blades of the port oars at Mac’s signal, and shoved the
boat forth.

“Attention!” called Mike. “Ready!—Row!”

The four oars took the water with a hard clean catch. Backward swung the
blue, white-lettered jerseys in perfect unison; forward they came again,
their slides returning easily with the motion of the boat, and again the
blades snatched at the water and drove it back in one steady, prolonged
push. The lads in the untippable old quinquereme mounted their benches
and yelled the school cheers in a fierce burst of loyalty. A knot of old
Westcottites on the bank echoed the cheer.

“What a stroke that kid sets!” said Talbot. “If he were only six inches
taller and twenty pounds heavier—”

“I shouldn’t be on the first crew,” offered Roger, as Pete hesitated.

“Some of us wouldn’t, that’s a sure thing,” returned Talbot. “We’ll
watch the launch off, and then go back and lie down.”

The _Veritas_ took on board the officials and the newspaper men, and
headed up river after the crews. President John had elected to go with
the launch. He posted himself beside the steersman in the bow, standing
proudly erect to be seen and admired of all men, and cast a long glance
backward at the common herd that thronged the float.

“Doesn’t he make you sick?” growled Talbot, as they watched the
_Veritas_ plough her way upstream. “I suppose Newbury isn’t responsible
for him, but I’d give my allowance for all summer to be sure of getting
ahead of him. I’d row till I dropped dead rather than let that goat see
us beaten.”

“He won’t see our second beaten, to-day,” said Eaton. “We’ve got the
best thing in seconds on the river.”

“But he’ll see _us_ beaten,” returned the captain. “I hate to give him
so much rope, but second place is good enough for us to-day. On Friday
we’ll have a real try at ’em.”

They lay down again in their old corner, telling Rust to call them out
when there was anything to see.

“This is the worst part of it,” said Pete. “There’s nothing so hard as
waiting. How goes it, Roger?”

Roger shook his head with a melancholy little smile that barely lifted
the corners of his tight-closed lips. Pete threw at him an uneasy look.

“You don’t feel sick again, do you?” he asked quickly.

This time Roger’s lips parted to a full grin, “No,” he answered with
emphasis. “I’m nervous, that’s all. I want to be doing something.”

“You’ll feel all right as soon as we get into the boat,” rejoined
Talbot, relieved. “What we want is some one to jolly us up a little.”

Just at that moment, as if in response to the captain’s wish, a young
man, displaying under a panama hat a face wreathed with smiles, appeared
at the door and trotted towards the Westcott corner.

“It’s Happy Hutchins!” cried Pete. “Hello, Hap! Why didn’t you come
before, you old fraud?”

Hutchins was shaking hands violently all round, calling every one by
name as if he knew the whole crew as well as he knew Pete and Eaton.

“I couldn’t get here. I was afraid they weren’t going to let me off at
all. If they hadn’t, I’d have cut the job entirely. How I’d like to be
in you fellows’ shoes! The Newbury cox will be the only one on their
boat to see Westcott’s to-day. Gee, but I wish I was pulling an oar!”

Roger glanced with curiosity at Pete’s face to see what effect this
boundless confidence had upon him. Pete was grinning broadly, but only
with pleasure in Happy’s society. He didn’t need the stimulus of
artificial encouragement.

“What’s the job, Hap?” asked Eaton.

“Arlington Trust. Fill ink-wells and run errands. Three dollars a week.
It nearly pays for my lunches.”

“Don’t get discouraged,” urged Pete. “Perhaps you’ll be made a
vice-president next year.”

“I’ll probably get a raise next year that’ll pay my car fares,” answered
Hutchins, calmly. “Where’s old Withers? Do you suppose he’ll remember
me?”

“He’ll never forget the man that stepped through the bottom of the
pair-oar!” declared Pete. “He’s sore about it yet.”

That was the first link in a chain of reminiscences that sent the
minutes flying. Hutchins had not succeeded in getting into college in
spite of an extra year, and two long summers of arduous slaving; but he
was the jolliest, best-hearted chap that Westcott’s had ever failed to
make a scholar of, and he couldn’t open his mouth without being
entertaining. Eaton had just reminded him of his historic attempt to
prove to the coach by argument that he wasn’t feathering under, when two
harsh toots of a steam whistle cut his explanations short and sobered
all faces.

“Trowbridge!” exclaimed Eaton and Pete, in unison.

“What’s ours?” asked Hutchins, quietly.

“Three. If Trowbridge is ahead, we’re close behind, you can depend on
that,” said Talbot.

“Let’s go out,” proposed Roger.

“Not yet. They’re some distance up, still.”

For two minutes they waited in silence, listening. Then the whistle
screeched once more, this time distinctly nearer.

“One! Two!” counted Hutchins. “Trowbridge! Come on out!”

The captain made no objection, and the crowd broke for the float. They
were none too soon. The launch was breasting the water a length out from
the arch in midstream. Alongside, but still under the bridge, was Mac’s
crew, an indistinct streak in the shadow. From the second arch inshore,
the bow of the Trowbridge boat was just emerging. Ten seconds later,
both boats were clear of the bridge, sweeping towards the finish line.
No other crew was in sight.

“Pull there, Westcott’s!” yelled Hutchins, as if he could reach the
distant crew with his voice. “Hit it up, stroke!”

Talbot said nothing, but his eyes were glued on the approaching boats,
now hardly twenty strokes from the finish line. His heart was heavy with
disappointment. He had expected much from this second crew. When doubts
as to his own assailed him, his faith in Mac’s crew had never wavered.
He had expected them to win their trial heat with ease, to make up in a
measure for the chagrin the school would feel if the first only gained
second place.

“Gee! see ’em hit up the stroke!” cried Hutchins, suddenly gripping
Pete’s arm and dancing in the water that flooded the float. “Look at ’em
gain! That’s the way, Westcott’s! They can’t meet it! Look at their
heads roll round! They’re all in. You’ve got ’em, Westcott’s. Hold ’em!
Hold ’em!”

At this point Hutchins broke off his wild ejaculations to splash across
to a cluster of old Westcottites standing near the boat-house and lead a
cheer. While the cheer rang out, Mike was counting the last half-dozen
strokes, and urging his men to row them hard. His boat cut the finish
line half a length ahead of Trowbridge, whose exhausted oarsmen fell
forward upon their oars as the coxswain bade them cease rowing. The
spurt had caught them with no surplus of strength to draw upon.

After this there was no need of artificial diversion in the boat-house.
The fellows on the second vowed that they had lots of strength left,
that they were holding back so as to keep Trowbridge from pushing too
hard, and that they could have kept the lead from the beginning if they
had wanted to—all of which was believed because it was pleasant to
believe. The exchange of questions and answers, explanations and
congratulations absorbed every one’s attention until the toots of the
launch again called the crowd forth to see the finish of the last heat
of the seconds.

And now the moment was come which Talbot’s crew had been both longing
for and dreading. As he helped carry the boat out, Roger was conscious
of a shrinking—a nervous, unsettling fear that his strength and skill
might not be equal to the test before him. He glanced at Pete to see if
he too felt the depressing influence, but the captain’s face showed only
a deeper line of determination about the mouth, and his voice as he gave
the necessary orders sounded calm and reassuring. The unnatural tension
was at its height as Roger sat with arms outstretched for the catch,
waiting for the coxswain’s word. It clung to him still during the first
strokes, as the boat got under way from the float. Then gradually the
familiar movement absorbed his attention, and the grip on his heart
loosened. The harmony of the swaying bodies, the monotonous creak of the
slides on their rollers, the wash of the water against the sides, the
“feel” of the boat beneath him as it drove steadily forward—all
contributed to wake in him the old confidence and exhilaration.

As the crew passed under the bridge on their way to the starting line,
the cheers from admirers above descended in a loud blare, but by this
time he was beyond the need of such encouragement. He knew that the boat
was going well, he exulted in the conviction that he had his form and
his strength, and could row that day as well as any other.

The crews got off well. The dozen quick starting strokes put the nose of
the Westcott boat six feet ahead of Newbury. Brookfield High and Boston
Latin were still farther behind. Roger was a little dilatory in obeying
the starting signal, and as a result, in his efforts to follow his
leader, he rowed his first strokes too much with his arms; but by the
time Pete lengthened out, he was in form again, his legs thrusting
strongly against the stretcher, his blade catching the water sharply and
hard, his pull straight through to the end of the long stroke. He bore
in mind the last warning he had received from the coach, and gave
particular attention to getting his hands away quickly, keeping in the
middle of the boat and avoiding the abrupt return technically known as
“rushing the slide.” He saw nothing but the back of the man in front of
him, heard nothing but the exhortations of the coxswain, until four
blasts of the whistle close at hand assured him that the Westcott boat
was leading. Soon after this he began to feel tired, and wondered
vaguely if he were not pulling too hard, but with the second toot of the
whistle this sense of weariness yielded somewhat, and a glimpse caught
over Eaton’s shoulder of Brookfield High, lengths behind, gave him
courage.

“Halfway!” called Rust. “Keep it up now, Newbury’s gaining. Watch your
form, Bow!”

From the launch came the signal that Westcott had lost the lead to
Newbury. Roger wondered if he were really rowing badly or was just being
warned to prevent a slump. He wondered also whether Talbot would spurt
or let Newbury go ahead. And while he wondered, toiling at his oar and
watching his slide, he felt the stroke quicken and rallied to meet it.

And then a new sound reached his ears, the sound of school cheers from
the bridge. Again the launch whistled four times. They were ahead again!
The cheers were clearer now and close at hand. Roger’s breath was coming
hard with every stroke; he got no rest on the returning slide; his legs
were weakening, he was tired all over, but not too tired to row; and he
drove his protesting muscles as if they were things separate from
himself, and he a cruel master lashing them on.

As they passed into the shadow of the bridge, the launch sent forth a
single long shriek. The sound filled the Westcott bow oar with furious
resentment. Was Pete going to let Newbury slip in ahead now, after
holding them the whole distance? Why didn’t he spurt? Why didn’t he give
his crew a chance to win its proper place? The spirit of battle that
surged through Roger’s heart blotted out the consciousness of weariness
and feebleness; he yearned for the opportunity to do something more than
pull with all his might at the stroke set him.

But Pete did not respond to the ardent wish of the bow oar. The race was
approaching its end. The launch gave its final signal—one hateful
blast.

“Ten strokes more!” yelled Rust. “Make it good now. Hard! Hard!”

Then Talbot, either to test his crew or to show what he could do if he
tried, suddenly “hit her up.” Bow oar met the challenge with a burst of
furious energy. He was mad all through. He felt like tearing his
outrigger from the side, like driving his stretcher into Eaton’s back.
Those ten strokes were the hardest Roger had ever rowed. The boat leaped
forward. The lead of three-quarters of a length which Newbury had, grew
less with every push of the Westcott oars.

“Let her run!” called Rust, and the crew rested. Newbury had won, by a
quarter of a length. Roger held himself upright, though breathing
heavily. His limbs were in a quiver, his heart was sore against Pete’s
cautious policy. They had lost a race that might have been won!
Brookfield was splashing along five lengths away, trying hard to avoid
the ignominy of being last.

PRESIDENT JOHN hurried from the launch to the Newbury crew, who were
stiffly disembarking at the side of the float.

“A splendid race!” he cried exultantly, as he grasped the hand of the
victorious captain; “a splendid race! That’s the way to do the
thing,—get the lead in the first half of the course and hold it. And
you had plenty of strength in reserve, too, didn’t you?”

Downs glanced a little doubtfully at his men. “I think so.”

“You’ll do it easier next time,” asserted the distinguished man. “A
defeat like this breaks the spirit of a crew. What you want now is a
good rest. I’ll see if I can’t get you a holiday for to-morrow.”

“That would be great! Do you think you can?”

President John’s knowing smile suggested mysterious reaches of influence
which he was much too modest to mention. “I guess it can be arranged. We
can’t afford to take any risks. The first name on that cup has got to be
Newbury Latin.”

Westcott’s paddled in to the float, turning their boat over directly to
Bainbridge Latin. Roger stripped for the shower in silence with lowering
face.

“How do you feel now it’s over?” asked Pete, after staring for some
seconds at his sullen companion. “All in?”

“No! Mad and disgusted!”

“You’ve nothing to be disgusted about,” said Eaton. “Rust says you
pulled like a fiend the whole way. I’m the one to be disgusted. I didn’t
row myself out at all.”

“That’s just it! If Pete had put up the stroke two minutes earlier, we’d
have left ’em behind half a length! Now they’ll crow and the newspapers
will call us a sandy but outclassed crew, and half the fellows will
believe it.”

“Cut out the growling!” commanded the captain. “What I did was right,
and I’d do it again. I didn’t know how you fellows were standing it, and
there was no use in killing ourselves, with the finals on for day after
to-morrow. But I’ll give you one sure pointer: you’ll have all the
spurting you want on Friday.”

“Bring on your spurt!” snapped the bow oar. “We’ll meet you.”

Roger felt calmer after his shower—calm enough to regret his rash
boast. Pete had the pluck inherent in good blood, the indomitable spirit
that faces odds undaunted, and only fails when brain and body can no
longer serve it,—and Pete was not one to forget. It was a foolish thing
to say, especially for an inexperienced oar who had rowed but one race
in his life, but as the boast could not now be retracted, the only
course for Roger to pursue was to carry it out. This he secretly
resolved to do if his good-for-nothing legs didn’t go back on him.

The papers next morning were scanned with eagerness. They generally
considered that first place in the finals would lie between Bainbridge
Latin, which had run away from its rivals in the second heat, and
Newbury, with Westcott’s a good third. All agreed that Westcott’s was
likely to win the race for seconds.

“It’s a wonder they concede that much,” said Pete, sarcastically. “They
always act surprised if we win anything.”

Dickie Sumner, made audacious by the knowledge that he was the bearer of
important news, came pushing into the group of older boys that filled
the big bay window. “Have you heard about the Newbury crew’s getting a
holiday?” he demanded.

His brother Jack seized him roughly. “What is it?”

“They’re going down to Cohasset to spend to-day and to-night. They
aren’t coming back to school until ten o’clock to-morrow, and they don’t
have to prepare any lessons.”

“Who told you?” asked Jack, suspiciously.

“Winny Thorne. I saw him on the car. His brother’s on their crew.”

“And we’ve got to stay here all day and study all the evening on
to-morrow’s lessons!” exclaimed Louis. “It’s a roast!”

“They ought to let the first crew off, anyway,” said Eaton. “The second
doesn’t need it so much.”

“They could come down with me to Manchester,” offered Rust. “The house
is open, and I could take care of five perfectly well.”

“Do you suppose the old man would let us?” asked Eaton.

Talbot considered. “He might, if we could make him see that it’s
necessary. I’ll try him, anyway.”

After the opening Bible-reading, the captain of the crew followed Mr.
Westcott to the office. He returned in three minutes, crestfallen. “It’s
no go,” he passed the news along. “He wouldn’t even discuss it.”

Some very sour faces scowled over the tops of books for the next
half-hour. Those near the windows stole occasional glances into the
street and across to the Garden beyond. It was a perfect June day, warm
and quiet, with limpid air sleepily stirring and the sun beaming
benignly over all. The autos of the unimprisoned idle slid by in endless
succession, bearing their fortunate occupants whithersoever fancy
called. The new green leaves on the trees in the Garden quivered
soothingly over the groups of nurses and perambulators and playing
children, and the poverty-blessed loafers slouching in unambitious
contentment on the benches. And this beautiful day Newbury could enjoy,
care-free, on the rocks at Cohasset, while the Westcott fellows were
mewed up in a stuffy schoolroom, grinding out loathsome lessons. It was
wicked!

The day passed as others before it. Lessons had to be learned and
recitations made. That night every oarsman was pledged to be in bed at
half-past nine. Out at Adams’s all noise was forbidden after nine
o’clock, on pain of frightful tortures. Roger slept ten hours without a
break, and awoke at sound of the rising bell, feeling strong enough to
row the race alone.

The school hours of Friday dragged out their wonted course. At two,
Talbot was called to the telephone, and emerged, chuckling tremendously,
to meet McDowell at the foot of the stairs.

“It’s the biggest joke I ever heard. The Newbury fellows sat round on
the rocks all day yesterday in sleeveless shirts, and burnt their arms
so that they couldn’t sleep at all last night. And we slept like tops!”

“Gee, but that’s great!” crowed Mac. “I hope the old man won’t hear
about it, though!”

“Where you going?” demanded the captain, as Mac started up the stairs.
“You ought to be getting out to the boat-house.”

“Volunteer French,” answered Mac, calmly. “I can’t afford to miss it. I
only got fifty on my last exam. The race doesn’t come till three-thirty.
I’ll be out in time.”

Talbot gaped after the lithe figure as it scurried up the stairs.
“After-school work on the day of the race!” he gasped. “And Newbury with
two days off! This is a pretty school!”

Mac turned up at three o’clock, whistling as unconcernedly as if he were
out for an ordinary practice, quite undisturbed by the reproaches hurled
at his head. By the time he was dressed the _Veritas_ was in sight,
bringing the whole Varsity crew to see the races, and sailing under the
command of Deering himself. President John again elected to go on the
launch, convinced that here his light would shine more brilliantly, and
desiring to make sure in advance of the best vantage-point from which to
gloat over the whole triumphant course of his crew when the great race
came off.

The atmosphere on the launch that day was unfavorable to the shining of
lesser lights. Deering’s authority and Deering’s personality dominated
the little craft. Though the Varsity captain spoke pleasantly to the
referee, discussed the arrangement for sending off the boats with the
starter, and greeted one of the newspaper reporters cordially as
“Billy,” he ignored completely the presence of the father of the
Triangular League, who sat obscurely in the stern, scowling with
affected indifference over his cigarette.

“He won’t speak to me, eh! Just like a Westcott snob!” the president
muttered to himself. “What do I care? He won’t be so proud when he sees
Newbury lead his school by four or five lengths. I hope Yale will lick
his crew to their knees!”—a feat, by the way, which Yale failed to
achieve by some quarter of a mile.

To the Varsity men in the bow of the _Veritas_, the race for second
crews seemed a tame affair. Westcott’s got a lead of half a length at
the start, increased it to a whole one at the quarter, doubled this
advantage during the next half mile, and added still another length in a
pretty display-spurt beyond the bridge. Hoarse and happy, Mike brought
his boat in to the float past a crowd of yelling, dancing friends who
were putting to an extreme test the boasted stability of the old Spanish
cutter. The members of the first crew, delighted to consider the
complete victory of their schoolmates a good omen for their own race,
helped Mac and his men out of their boat and poured sweet praises into
their ears.

“Nothing like a little extra French after school to get you ready for a
race,” panted Mac, as Talbot wrung his hand and blessed him with a dozen
different kinds of exclamation. “I hope you fellows won’t suffer from
lack of it.”

“Suffer from lack of it, you old idiot! Do you suppose we have strength
to throw away?”

“Get a lead in the beginning,” urged Mac, becoming serious. “It’s a lot
easier to keep it than to get it after you’ve lost it. Newbury will quit
if you can once show them your rudder.”

Pete nodded.

“And drive your crew,” continued Mac. “They can stand a lot more than
they did on Wednesday.”

“I think they’ll have a chance for all the work they want to do. I’ll
try to satisfy even Roger.”

Bow oar reddened, but said nothing. He knew well that Pete would push
the crew to its last gasp, and he had doubts as to his ability to hold
his own with the hard-muscled, strong-headed stroke, who was as
incapable of yielding as the Old Guard of surrendering, or the dying
bulldog of relinquishing his grip on his enemy. There was one method, of
course, by which Roger could meet the strain, and come out fresh at the
end to smile at Pete’s challenge. He might weaken just a little on his
pull as the labor told, might put a trifle less than his best into his
stroke, and thus shrewdly save himself from extreme exhaustion. But to
do that was to be a quitter, and bow oar’s scorn for a quitter was equal
to Pete’s. “I’ll give him all I’ve got, anyway,” he said to himself. “If
I break, it will be because I can’t row any more, not because I won’t.”

There was trouble in starting. Westcott’s and Bainbridge got twice into
position and drifted away again before the others, shuffling for places,
reached the line. Waterville was badly cox-swained; Newbury apparently
loitered on purpose, hoping, after the manner of certain Varsity crews
at New London, to worry opponents by prolonged suspense. So at least
Pete opined, and his word, passed back through the boat, set four pairs
of jaws tight together and swamped all nervous fear under a hot wave of
determination. When the pistol-shot rang forth, Newbury’s oar-blades
were already in the water. As the stroke lengthened out, after a hundred
yards, Newbury and Bainbridge were neck and neck, half a length ahead of
Westcott’s, which was rowing a steady, smooth stroke which looked like
an exhibition of skill, yet carried with it the united heave of four
straining bodies.

“Those Westcott fellows aren’t bad,” said Deering, who stood beside
reporter Billy and watched the struggling oarsmen with the eye of an
expert. “They move well, catch together, and get their hands away
quickly.”

“Good crew!” answered Billy, wisely, “but too light to last well.
They’re coming up on Newbury now. It’s about time for Bainbridge to
shake ’em both.”

Deering was silent for some seconds, gazing with that concentration of
attention which a horse fancier gives to the movements of a blooded
steed. “That crew is going to be hard to shake,” he said finally.
“They’ve got a half length on Newbury without raising the stroke more
than a point. There’s hardly any check between strokes.”

“And Bainbridge has got a length,” said Billy, significantly.

In the Westcott boat Rust was urging Two to be careful about his slide,
and informing Talbot of the relative position of the crews. Pete raised
the stroke slightly, and his crew pushed a whole length ahead of
Newbury, which likewise spurted, but lost through inferior form the
advantage gained by the accelerated stroke.

“Halfway!” yelled Rust. “We’ve got a good length on Newbury. Steady now!
Hard all the way through! Don’t rush your slide, Two!”

Talbot held to the increased stroke, sure that the critical moment of
the contest with Newbury was at hand; if he could open water between the
boats, he was confident that Newbury would never rally. His men followed
him in splendid unison. For Roger the first great weariness had passed.
He was rowing mechanically now, putting into his drive all the strength
which he thought safe to force from himself, his whole attention
concentrated on his oar and his slide and the back of the man before
him. He heard the four blasts of the whistle which announced that
Bainbridge was leading, but he cared little for that; he was rowing to
beat Newbury, and Newbury was behind!

“Open water!” exclaimed Billy. “Half a length of open water! I wish I
had taken that bet of three to one on Newbury against Westcott’s.
Newbury’s out of it for sure.”

“Not yet!” said a stifled voice at his elbow. “I’m not giving up yet.
They’ll come up on ’em. They’ve got to.”

Billy turned to find John Smith at his side, occupying the place of the
Harvard captain who had gone aft to his crew. President John’s eyes were
fixed upon the Westcott boat in a hostile glare, his hands tightly
gripping the rail, his face drawn with suppressed emotion.

“Make it up!” answered the unsympathetic Billy. “How are they going to
make up two lengths against that crew? Why, the more they try to spurt,
the worse they row! Number Three there is about all in now. You can see
it yourself.”

“Bainbridge will beat ’em anyway,” muttered Smith, fiercely. “Go it,
Bainbridge! Kill ’em, Bainbridge!”

[Illustration: “GO IT, BAINBRIDGE! KILL ’EM, BAINBRIDGE!”]

Billy threw a glance of curiosity at his neighbor’s face and grinned
broadly. “Been betting heavy against Westcott’s and feels sore,” he said
to himself; but Billy was mistaken. It wasn’t a losing wager that
charged that face with venom, but defeat and wounded vanity. President
John considered himself a sportsman; in fact he was only a partisan;
rabid, narrow, unforgiving. He hated the crew that was vanquishing his
own, that was stealing from him the triumph which he had confidently
expected and in the prospect of which he had openly gloried.

The crews were close to the bridge now. Roger longed for the comfort of
its shadow, longed for the word of the coxswain that the end was near.
He felt now as he swung forward to his catch that he had but a
half-dozen more strokes in his body. To row another hundred yards seemed
absolutely impossible.

“Bainbridge only two-thirds of a length ahead!” shouted Rust. In answer
Pete bellowed over his shoulder: “Get into it now! Don’t quit!” Roger
felt the stroke quicken and mechanically followed. For the first time
during the race the remembrance of Pete’s challenge recurred to him. He
was worn and weak; his eyes bleared, his head was a dull depressing
weight upon his shoulders, every muscle in his body cried aloud for
mercy; but his spirit rose in defiance and sent along the quivering
nerves a command which the muscles could not disobey.

“Only half a length now!” cried Rust, as the boat emerged beyond the
bridge. “You can do it, only twelve more!”

Talbot lifted his stroke another notch, and Rust counted. At each pull
Roger assured himself that he could do one more, and threw into that one
all the power that was in him. He could hardly see Eaton’s back as it
swayed before him. The race had lost interest for him; he was fighting
Talbot, proving that he was no quitter.

“Seven—eight,” counted Rust. “Pull! Pull! You’re almost there!”

Four more! To Roger those four strokes seemed like four of the labors of
Hercules. He could do but one before he broke,—but one more after that.
Dizziness came sweeping over him, he gasped hard for breath. One more
before he fainted!—

“Let her run!” screamed the coxswain.

Roger dropped, but caught himself by a supreme effort as Pete turned his
dripping, heaving shoulder to look at his crew. Over the stooping bodies
of Three and Two he saw the upright form of Bow, smiled faintly, and
lurched heavily forward, while Rust splashed water into his face. Behind
him Bow slumped down upon his oar.

“WESTCOTT’S by six feet!” announced Mr. Henderson, judge at the finish,
as the crowd pressed about him to learn the official verdict.

Mac and his men burst forth in a howl of joy. Trask threw up his arms
and yelled the news across the water to the crew of the quinquereme, who
went wild with excitement. Their historic boat, which had escaped the
missiles of war unscathed, very nearly succumbed to the perils of peace.
The _Veritas_, swinging round to the float after the laggard crews had
crept in, found the cutter shoved directly into its path through the
efforts of two lads who continued to chop the water vehemently while
they yelled, as oblivious to the direction they were taking as stokers
in the hold of a steamship to the course laid down by the navigator. The
Varsity manager, who was steering the launch, backed his engine and
saved the cutter for another race day.

Meantime Billy was scribbling notes on a block of yellow paper, Deering
was smiling in dignified exultation among his crew, and President John,
his face white with ill-suppressed rage, was reviling to two curious
reporters the folly of the Newbury oarsmen who had thrown away a sure
victory.

“The very best crew on the river!” he declared with emphatic spacing of
words and savage jerks of the head. “Look at the weight and strength in
that boat! Why, they pulled away from Westcott’s on Wednesday without
half trying. It was just a little practice spin for ’em. Then I got ’em
a holiday yesterday at the shore, and what did they do? Trotted round on
the rocks and played ball in the red-hot sun in sleeveless shirts! Burnt
their arms raw, of course. They didn’t get a wink of sleep all last
night.”

“Westcott’s had it on ’em to-day all right”, remarked the reporter.
“That crew looked pretty good to me!”

“It’s a fair enough sort of a crew, but they had luck and we didn’t.
That’s just what beat us, hard luck.”

Smith turned away to leave the launch, which was already fast. The
_Ledger_ man glanced after him and winked at his companion.

“Sore!” said the latter, tersely.

By this time the Westcott oarsmen had revived and brought their boat in
to the float. Here, in the forefront of the enthusiasts, stood a tall,
deep-chested young man, wearing a hatband with the revered crimson and
black vertical stripes, who shook hands with each weary rower as he left
the boat and gave him a personal compliment which was destined to remain
a cherished memory when the general events of school life should have
faded into the limbo of things forgotten. Then Deering returned to the
launch, which was soon speeding up the river to its moorings; and the
Westcott crew, already recovering from the grinding strain through the
quick recuperative power of sturdy boyhood, and too happy to heed their
exhaustion, carried their boat into the house, where they gave
themselves up to the refreshing luxury of the shower bath and the
delight of mutual congratulations.

The next day was a happy one for the boys at Westcott’s. From the older
fellows who hailed the triumph of their fortunate mates with a delight
untouched by envy, to the little chaps in knee trousers in whose eyes
the members of the first crew were as demigods, complacency and pride
pervaded the school like a mild intoxication. Mr. Westcott made a speech
of congratulation in which he expressed himself as especially pleased
that such excellent crews had been developed without interference with
the regular daily work—a sentiment which the boys, if they did not
appreciate, were, under the circumstances, willing to forgive. Pete,
too, made a speech—a jerky, inartistic, vehement little harangue,
strong in patriotism though weak in rhetoric, which was uproariously
applauded. Then the cheers were let loose, a din that made the windows
rattle and caused the neighbors for half a block to regret that they had
not fixed upon an earlier date for migrating to the quiet of the
country. “_It clamor cœlo_,” muttered Mr. Stevens, senior classical
master, with a quiet smile, and he stole away to his own recitation room
to save his ear-drums.

Almost as noisy was the welcome given a few days later to the cup
itself, when it made its second appearance before the school, coming
this time for a year’s sojourn. President John, who had gulped down the
bitter medicine which had been forced upon him, and now was trying to
forget the taste of it, sent with the trophy a flowery note which Mr.
Westcott read to an appreciative audience.

“I’ll bet he swore when he wrote that,” whispered Wilmot to his
seat-mate.

Pete nodded. “It must have come hard. When he showed the thing to us
last fall, I never expected to see it here again.”

“They probably can’t keep it another year,” said Steve, loftily. “There
won’t be much here after we leave.”

But the little boys of big faith, in the front seats, who were straining
their eyes to make out the inscription on the first shield, had not
shared the anxieties of their elders, nor did they now worry about the
year to come. They had known all along that their champions could be
trusted to bring the school colors out on top, while as for the
future—what future was there but the June examinations and the summer
vacation?

One more formality had still to be attended to before the athletic
season could be declared closed,—the election of a captain of the crew
for the next year. It was merely a formality, for, since Roger Hardie
was the only one of the five who would not graduate, the choice was
strictly limited.

“It’s a great honor to be captain of the Westcott crew,” said Roger, as
he came downstairs with Pete after the meeting, “but I wish there had
been some competition. It’s like winning a race by default.”

“You didn’t do any defaulting in the race,” replied Talbot, somewhat
illogically, “though I was a good deal troubled about you early in the
season. I had a guilty conscience for several weeks.”

“Why?”

“Because I had prevented your being made captain of the eleven.”

“I knew you did. You didn’t think I was fit for it. I didn’t blame you.”

“Nonsense! I wanted you for the crew captain next year. I took long
odds, and I couldn’t explain because I couldn’t be sure you’d make good.
At one time I thought you never would.”

Roger gave a laugh of contentment. “I was an awful dub at first. Wilmot
wanted to fire me out of the pair-oar.”

“And I wouldn’t let him,” said Pete, complacently. “I thought you had
the stuff in you, if we could only bring it out. Next year you’ll be
first lord of the school, and I shall be lost among six hundred
freshmen.”

“Lost!” echoed Roger, derisively. “Anybody can find _you_ easy enough,
if he’ll only search the freshman boat. Your seat will be down somewhere
near the stern.”

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