“He was very kind,” answered Joel thoughtfully. “I don’t believe, Mr. Remsen, that I want to be let off that way,” he went on. “I’m no less guilty of cutting the bell rope than I was before the accident on the river. And until I can prove that I am not guilty, or until they let me off of their own free wills, I’d rather stay on probation. But I’m very much obliged to you, Mr. Remsen.”
And to this resolve Joel adhered, despite all Remsen’s powers of persuasion. And finally that gentleman continued on his way to the office, looking very worried.
The cause of his worry was known to the whole school two days later when the news was circulated that Wesley Blair was on probation. And great was the consternation. The football game with St. Eustace Academy was fast approaching, and there was no time to train a satisfactory substitute for Blair’s position at full-back, even had one been in reach. And Whipple as temporary captain was well enough, but Whipple as captain during the big game was not to be thought of with equanimity. The backs had already been weakened by the loss of Cloud, who, despite his poor showing the first of the season, had it in him to put up a rattling game. And now to lose Blair! What did the faculty mean? Did it want Hillton to lose? But presently hope took the place of despair among the pupils. He was going to coach up and pass a special exam the day before the game. Professor Ludlow was to help him with his modern languages and Remsen with his mathematics, while Digbee, that confirmed old grind, had offered to coach him on Greek. And so it would be all right, said the school; you couldn’t down Blair; he’d pass when the time came!
But Remsen—and Blair himself, had the truth been known—were not so hopeful. And Remsen went to West and besought him to induce Joel to allow him (Remsen) to ask for his reinstatement. And this West very readily did, bringing to bear a whole host of arguments which slid off from Joel like water from a duck’s back. And Remsen groaned and shook his head, but always presented a smiling, cheerful countenance in public. Those were hard days for the first eleven. Despair and discouragement threatened on all sides, and, as every thoughtful one expected, there was such a slump in the practice as kept Remsen and Whipple and poor Blair awake o’ nights during the next week. But Whipple toiled like a Trojan, and Remsen beamed contentment and scattered tongue-lashings alternately; and Blair, ever armed with a text-book, watched from the side-line whenever the chance offered.
Joel seldom went to the field those days. The sight of a canvas-clad player made him ready to weep, and a soaring pigskin sent him wandering away by himself along the river bluff in no enviable state of mind. But one day he did find his way to the gridiron during practice, and he and Blair sat side by side, or raced down the field, even with a runner, and received much consolation in the sort of company that misery loves, and, deep in discussion of the faults and virtues of the players, forgot their troubles.