There is a tradition at Hillton, almost as firmly inwrought as that which credits Professor Durkee with wearing a wig, to the effect that Thanksgiving Day is always rainy. To-day proved an exception to the rule. The sun shone quite warmly and scarce a cloud was to be seen. At two o’clock the grand stand was filled, and late arrivals had perforce to find accommodations on the grass along the side-lines. Some fifty lads had accompanied their team from St. Eustace, and the portion of the stand where they sat was blue from top to bottom. But the crimson of Hillton fluttered and waved on either side and dotted the field with little spots of vivid color wherever a Hilltonian youth or ally sat, strolled, or lay.
Yard and village were alike well-nigh deserted; here was the staid professor, the corpulent grocer, the irrepressible small boy, the important-looking senior, the shouting, careless junior, the giggling sister, the smiling mother, the patronizing papa, the crimson-bedecked waitress from the boarding house, the—the—band! Yes, by all means, the band!
There was no chance of overlooking the band. It stood at the upper end of the field and played and played and played. The band never did things by halves. When it played it played; and, as Outfield West affirmed, “it played till the cows came home!”
There were plenty of familiar faces here to-day; Professor Gibbs’s, old “Peg-Leg” Duffy’s, Professor Durkee’s, the village postmaster’s, “Old Joe” Pike’s, and many, many others. On the ground just outside the rope sat West and a throng of boys from Hampton House. There were Cooke and Cartwright and Somers and Digbee—and yes, Wesley Blair, looking very glum and unhappy. He had donned his football clothes, perhaps from force of habit, and sat there taking little part in the conversation, but studying attentively the blue-clad youths who were warming-up on the gridiron. A very stalwart lot of youngsters, those same youths looked to be, and handled the ball as though to the manner born, and passed and fell and kicked short high punts with discouraging ease and vim.
But one acquaintance at least was missing. Not Bartlett Cloud, for he sat with his sister and mother on the seats; not Clausen, for he sat among the substitutes; not Sproule, since he was present but a moment since. But Joel March was missing. In his room at Masters Hall Joel sat by the table with a Greek history open before him. I fear he was doing but little studying, for now and then he arose from his chair, walked impatiently to the window, from which he could see in the distance the thronged field, bright with life and color, turned impatiently away, sighed, and so returned again to his book. But surely we can not tarry there with Joel when Hillton and St. Eustace are about to meet in gallant if bloodless combat on the campus. Let us leave him to sigh and sulk, and return to the gridiron.