Apparently there was not; for when, on the following day, he presented himself at the gymnasium, he came through the ordeal of measurement and test with flying colors, and with the command to pay special attention to the chest-weights, was released, at liberty to “go in” for any sport he liked.
Despite his forebodings, the studies proved not formidable, and at four o’clock Joel reported for football practice with a comforting knowledge of duties performed. An hour and a half of steady practice, consisting of passing, falling, and catching punts, left the inexperienced candidates in a state of breathless collapse when Blair dismissed the field. West did not turn up at the gridiron, but a tiny scarlet speck far off on the golf links proclaimed his whereabouts.
On the way back to the grounds a number of youthful juniors, bravely arrayed in their first suits of football togs, loudly denounced the vigor of the practice, and pantingly made known to each other their intentions to let the school get along as best it might without their assistance on its eleven. They would be no great loss, thought Joel, as he trudged along in the rear of the procession, and their resignation would probably save Blair the necessity of incurring their dislikes when the process of “weeding-out” began.
Although no special attention had been given to Joel during practice, yet he had been constantly aware of Blair’s observation, and had known that several of the older fellows were watching his work with interest. His feat of the previous day had already secured to him a reputation throughout the school, and as the little groups of boys passed him he heard himself alluded to as “the country fellow that punted fifty yards yesterday,” or “the chap that made that kick.” And when the three long, steep flights of Masters confronted him he took them two steps at a time, and arrived before the door of Number 34 breathless, but as happy as a schoolboy can be.
THE HEAD COACH.
“Upper Middle Class: Members will meet at the gym at 2.15, to march to depot and meet Mr. Remsen.”
“Louis Whipple, Pres’t.”
This was the notice pasted on the board in Academy Building the morning of Joel’s fifth day at school. Beside it were similar announcements to members of the other classes. As he stood in front of the board Joel felt a hand laid on his shoulder, and turned to find Outfield West by his side.
“Are you going along?” asked that youth.
“I don’t believe so,” answered Joel. “I have a Latin recitation at two.”
“Well, chuck it! Everybody is going—and the band, worse luck!”
“Is there a band?” West threw up his hands in mock despair.
“Is there a band? Is there a band! Mr. March, your ignorance surprises and pains me. It is quite evident that you have never heard the Hillton Academy Band; no one who has ever heard it forgets. Yes, my boy, there is a band, and it plays Washington Post, and Hail Columbia, and Hilltonians; and then it plays them all over again.”