The next day the team “went into executive session,” as Joel called it, and the predicted shake-up took place. Murdoch, the left guard, was deemed too slight for the place, and was sent to the side line, from where he presently crawled to a seat on the great empty stand, and hiding his blanketed head wept like a child. And there were other changes made. Joel kept his place at left half, pending the bettering of Prince’s ankle, and Blair was secure at full. But when the practice game began, many of the old forms were either missing or to be seen in the second Eleven’s line, and the coaches hovered over the field of battle with dark, forbidding looks, and said mean things whenever the opportunity presented itself, and were icily polite to each other, as men will be when they know themselves to be in the right and every one else in the wrong. And so practice that Thursday was an unpleasant affair, and had the desired effect; for the men played the game for all that was in them and attended strictly to the matter in hand, forgetting for the time the intricacies of Latin compositions and the terrors of coming examinations. When it was over Joel crawled off of the scale with the emotions of a weary draught horse and took his way slowly toward home. In the square he ran against Outfield, who, armed with a monstrous bag of golf requisites, had just leaped off a car.
“Hello, Joel,” he cried. “What’s happened? Another off-sider? Have you broken that finger again? Honest Injun, what’s up?”
“Nothing, Out; I’m just kind of half dead. We had two thirty-minute halves, with forty-’leven coaches yelling at us every second, and a field like a turnip patch just before seeding. Oh, no, there’s nothing the matter; only if you know of any quiet corner where I can die in peace, lead me there, Out. I won’t keep you long; it will soon be over.”
“No, I don’t, my flippant young friend, but I know something a heap better.”
“Nothing can be better any more, Out. Still—well, what is it?”
“A couple of hot lemonades and a pair of fat sandwiches at Noster’s. Come along.”
“You’re not so bad, Out,” said Joel as they hurried up the street. “You have moments of almost human intelligence!”
The backs and substitute backs, together with Story, the quarter, Captain Dutton, and one or two assistant coaches, including Stephen Remsen, were assembled in Bancroft 6. The head coach was also present, and with a long pointer in one hand and a piece of chalk in the other was going through a sequence for the benefit of the backs, who had been called a half hour ahead of the rest of the Eleven. The time was a half hour after dinner.
On the blackboard strange squares and lines and circles confronted the men in the seats. The head coach placed the tip of the pointer on a diagram marked “No. 2. Criss-Cross.”