Then he yelled “Off side!” at the top of his lungs and tore down on Joel, and, much to that young gentleman’s surprise, strove to wrest the ball from him. It was quite uncalled for, and Joel naturally resented it to the extent of pushing violently, palms open, against the Amherst man’s jacket, with the result that the Amherst gentleman sat down backward forcibly upon the turf at some distance. And again the stands laughed. But Joel gravely lifted the ball and walked back to the thirty-yard line with it. The center took it with a grin, and, as the five yards of penalty for off side was paced, Joel was rewarded for his play with the muttered query from the captain:
“What were you doing, you idiot?”
But too great zeal is far more excusable than too small, and Joel was quickly forgiven, and all the more readily, perhaps, since Amherst was held for downs, and the ball went over on the second next play. But Joel called himself a great many unpleasant names during the rest of the game, and for a long while after could not think of his first touch-down without feeling his cheeks redden. Nevertheless, his manner of getting down the field under kicks undoubtedly impressed the coaches favorably, for when the scrub was further pruned to allow it to go to training table Joel was retained.
One bright October day Joel and Outfield went into town to meet the former’s parents at the station; for Mr. and Mrs. March had long before made up their minds to the visit, and the two boys had been looking forward to it for some time. It was worth going a long way to see the pleasure with which the old farmer and his wife greeted the great long-legged youth who towered so far above them there on the station platform. Joel kissed his mother fondly, patted his father patronizingly but affectionately on the back, and asked fifty questions in as many minutes. And all his mother could do was to gaze at him in reverent admiration and sigh, over and over:
“Land sakes, Joel March, how you do grow!”
It must not be thought that West was neglected. Farmer March, in especial, showed the greatest pleasure at meeting him again, and shook hands with him four times before the street was reached and the car that was to carry them to the college town gained. The boys conducted the visitors to their room, and made lunch for them on a gas stove, Outfield drawing generously on his private larder, situated under the foot of his bed. Then the four hunted up a pleasant room in one of the student boarding houses, and afterward showed the old people through the college.