But a clear head, a good digestion, and racing blood render studying a pleasure rather than a task, and Joel found that, while giving less time than before to lessons, he learned them fully as well. One thing is certain: his standing in class did not suffer, even when the coaches were more than usually severe. Joel’s experience that fall, and many a time later, led him to conclude that the amount of outdoor athletics indulged in and the capability for study are in direct ratio.
West, too, was a most studious young gentleman that term, and began to pride himself on his recently discovered ability to learn. To be sure, golf was a hard taskmaster, but with commendable self-denial he did not allow it to interfere with his progress in class. Both he and Joel had earned the name of being studious ere the end of the fall term, and neither of them resented it.
Unlike the preceding meal, dinner at the training table was a sociable and cheerful affair, when every man at the board tried his best to be entertaining, and when “shop,” either study or football, was usually tabooed. The menu was elaborate. There were soup, two or three kinds of meat, a half dozen vegetables, sauces, the ever-present toast, pudding or cream, and plenty of fruit; and for drinkables, why, there was the milk, and sometimes light ale in lesser quantities. At one end of the table—whether head or foot is yet undecided—sat the captain, at the other end the head coach. Other coaches were present as well, and the trainer sat at the captain’s left.
There was always lots of noise, for weighty things were seldom touched upon in the conversation, and jokes were given and taken in good part. When all other means of amusement failed there were still the potatoes to throw; and a butter chip, well laden, can be tossed upward in such a manner that it will remain stuck more or less securely to the ceiling. This is a trick that comes only with long practice, but any one may try it; and the ceiling above the training table that year was always well studded with suspended disks of crockery. Bread fights—so named because the ammunition is more likely to be potatoes—were extremely popular, and the dinner often came to an end with a pitched battle, in which coats were decorated from collar to hem with particles of that clinging vegetable.
His evenings usually belonged to Joel to spend as he wished, though not unfrequently a blackboard talk by the head coach or a lecture by some visiting authority curtailed them considerably. He had always to be in bed by ten o’clock.
But sleep sometimes, especially after a day of hard practice, did not readily come, and he often laid awake until midnight had sounded out on the deep-toned bell in the old church tower thinking over the events of the day, and wondering what fate, in the person of the head coach, held in view for him. And one night he awoke to find Outfield shaking him violently by the shoulder.