The last week of October brought chilling winds and flying clouds. Life at Hillton Academy had gone on serenely since West’s victory on the links. The little pewter tankard reposed proudly upon his mantel beside a bottle of chow-chow, and bore his name as the third winner of the trophy. But West had laid aside his clubs, save for an occasional hour at noon, and, abiding by his promise to Joel, he had taken up his books again with much resolution, if little ardor. Hillton had met and defeated two more football teams, and the first eleven was growing gradually stronger. Remsen was seen to smile now quite frequently during practice, and there was a general air of prosperity about the gridiron.
The first had gone to its training table at “Mother” Burke’s, in the village, and the second ate its meals in the center of the school dining hall with an illy concealed sense of self-importance. And the grinds sneered at its appetites, and the obscure juniors admired reverently from afar. Joel had attended both recitations and practice with exemplary and impartial regularity, and as a result his class standing was growing better and better on one hand, and on the other his muscles were becoming stronger, his flesh firmer, and his brain clearer.
The friendship between him and Outfield West had ripened steadily, until now they were scarcely separable. And that they might be more together West had lately made a proposition.
“That fellow Sproule is a regular cad, Joel, and I tell you what we’ll do. After Christmas you move over to Hampton and room with me. You have to make an application before recess, you know. What do you say?”
“I should like to first rate, but I can’t pay the rent there,” Joel had objected.
“Then pay the same as you’re paying for your den in Masters,” replied West. “You see, Joel, I have to pay the rent for Number 2 Hampton anyhow, and it won’t make any difference whether I have another fellow in with me or not. Only, if you pay as much of my rent as you’re paying now, why, that will make it so much cheaper for me. Don’t you see?”
“Yes, but if I use half the room I ought to pay half, the rent.” And to this Joel stood firm until West’s constant entreaties led to a compromise. West was to put the matter before his father, and Joel before his. If their parents sanctioned it, Joel was to apply for the change of abode. As yet the matter was still in abeyance.
Richard Sproule, as West had suggested rather more forcibly than politely, was becoming more and more objectionable, and Joel was not a bit grieved at the prospect of leaving him. Of late, intercourse between the roommates had become reduced to rare monosyllables. This was the outcome of a refusal on Joel’s part to give a portion of his precious study time to helping Sproule with his lessons. Once or twice Joel had consented to assist his roommate, and had done so to the detriment of his own affairs; but the result to both had proved so unsatisfactory that Joel had stoutly refused the next request. Thereupon Sproule had considered himself deeply aggrieved, and usually spent the time when Joel was present in sulking.