“Come on,” suggested Bruce when he had paid the bill. “What do you say to a walk back to the Hall? It’s a fine night, and the tramp will do you good.”
“I’m for it,” agreed Tom, and they set out.
“Hark!” exclaimed Bruce a little later, pausing in the middle of the road, which was flooded with moonlight. “What’s that noise?”
“Auto coming,” replied Tom. “Let’s pull over here where we won’t get so much dust.”
As they shifted to the side of the highway they heard the sound of singing from the rear, mingling with the exhaust from a car.
“Elmwood Hall fellows,” spoke Tom briefly, as he recognized one of the school songs. “I wonder who they are?”
“Don’t know,” answered Bruce. “Joy-riders, I guess. The fellows are getting more and more sporty every year.”
“Get out!” laughed Tom. “You were as bad as any of us!”
The car came nearer. Tom and Bruce were well over to one side of the road, but in a spirit of mischief the lad at the wheel yelled:
“Get out the way! Give us room! We’re the cheese!”
“They’ve got all the room they’re entitled to,” murmured Tom, for he and Bruce were on the extreme left of the highway, and the auto should have been on the right.
“Look out!” yelled a voice suddenly. “Pull that wheel over, Sam!”
But it was too late. A moment later Tom felt something strike him on the hip, and he went down in the dust.
“Put on the brakes!”
“You’ve hit someone, Sam!”
These cries followed the striking of Tom. There was a screech from the brake bands and the car came to a quick stop.
“You knocked him down,” someone said.
“I don’t care. Served him right. No business to get in my way!” snapped Sam.
“Are you hurt, Tom?” asked Bruce anxiously, as he bent over his friend. “Were you hit hard?”
Tom’s head cleared. It had struck rather heavily as he went down, yet it was but a passing faintness. He struggled to his feet, with the aid of Bruce, and some of the lads who leaped from the auto.
“I—I guess I’m all right,” Tom answered slowly. “What happened?”
“Sam Heller’s car struck you,” said Bruce quietly. “And it was on the wrong side of the road. Where’s Heller?” he asked of some of that lad’s friends.
“Here I am,” blustered the bully. “What’s the matter? I didn’t mean to hit him. The steering gear is stiff. I tried to turn out. Anyhow, only the mud guard brushed him. Who is it?”
There was no need to answer for, as the group about our hero parted, Sam Heller came face to face with Tom.
ON THE GRIDIRON
Sam started back, almost as though he expected Tom to strike him, but our hero did not raise his hand. There came a grim tightening of his lips, and into his eyes that had been dazed by the fall there was a look of anger, but that was all.