But Hugh chuckled when he saw Claude give a quick look up at his mother, as if to make certain she was not looking; after which he leaned forward and stared hard and eagerly at the wonderful picture that athletic field presented. Hugh had good eyesight, and he could detect the longing expression in the effeminate features of the boy whose mother seemed bent on making him a weakling and a “sissy.”
“Poor Claude, I certainly do pity you,” Hugh was telling himself as the big car rolled on amidst a cloud of dust. “Deep down in your heart you are yearning to be as other natural boys are, who have red blood in their veins. If your dad had lived I warrant there’d be a different story to tell, because they say he liked all kinds of healthy sport; but, somehow, Mrs. Jardine has taken a dislike to such things that seems to keep growing stronger all the time, until it’s become a regular mania with her. But unless she changes her mind there’ll be a day coming when she’ll bitterly regret it all. I suppose now, if she had a daughter she’d prevent her from associating with Sue, and Ivy, and Peggy, as well as all the other high-school girls whose mothers actually allow them to go to dances with us boys, and even cheer the Scranton players in a rattling good baseball game.”
There was an air of feverish expectation rampant throughout the whole town, and wherever young people got together the talk was of nothing else save the great event on the programme for the next day. Even many older persons seemed to have become infected with the sporting virus, because memories of other days were being recalled; and it was remarkable how many elderly men had once been deeply interested in just such things, though, of course, along somewhat less modern lines.
Then again there was an undercurrent of talk that carried a thrill along with it. Stories that could not be confirmed, but were believed more or less, began to be circulated to the effect that some irresponsible parties meant to start something during the tournament that was calculated to bring disrepute upon the town of Scranton. It was even darkly hinted that the partly built, new, wooden fence had been set on fire as a lark; and squads of curious boys and girls even circulated along its entire length, bent upon ascertaining if such a thing could really be true.
When they failed to find any evidence of a fire, they were still unconvinced; for, of course, it would be policy on the part of the management to conceal all traces, so as to save the good name of the town.
These rumors could not be traced to any particular source, but there are always a certain number of persons who delight to circulate such stories, and, perhaps, unconsciously, add a little to the same with each and every additional telling, until a trivial happening becomes a colossal thing.