“We’ll start from the gym after last lectures, hit the turnpike for Aldenhurst, cross the river at Weldon, circle up the hill through Marsden, and come back along the river road. You can go in bunches, or singly as you choose, but you must all make those towns, and there’ll be checkers at each one to see that you don’t skip. It’s only fifteen miles, and you ought to do it in four hours without turning a hair. There’ll be a five-hour time limit, and those who don’t make all the checking points, and report back by eight o’clock will be scratched off the active football list. That’s all.”
A silence followed the announcement of the coach, and then came several murmurs of disapproval.
“Fifteen miles!” came from Sam Heller. “That’s a stiff run all right.”
“I should say yes,” agreed Nick Johnson.
“Can’t we shorten it in some way?” asked Sam of his crony in a whisper, but not so low that Tom did not overhear him.
“Dry up!” commanded Nick. “I’ll see. Maybe we can cut off a few miles. Fifteen is too much!”
“He sure is working us,” said Jack to Tom.
“And a time limit,” added Bert, with a note of grievance in his voice.
“Oh pshaw!” exclaimed, Tom. “Anyone would think you fellows had never tramped before. Why in camp you thought nothing of doing twenty miles in a day.”
“But we could take our time,” asserted Bert.
“Nonsense! We always did better than four miles an hour and never minded it. Come on, be sports! We’ll go together, won’t we?”
“Sure,” said Bert. “Well, if it has to be, it has to—that’s all. Hang it! I wonder if I want to play football anyhow?”
“Of course you do,” said Tom. “We’ll have some fun on the run. And think of the supper we will eat after it. I’m going to see if we can’t have a little something extra.”
And he went to the kitchen of the eating hall where he and his chums dined, to wheedle the chef into serving generous portions after the cross-country run.
LOST IN THE WOODS
“Fairfield, Fitch, Wilson, Abbot,” remarked the official checker-out, as Tom and his three chums trotted out of the door of the gymnasium on the afternoon of the cross-country run. “All right boys. Getting away in good time,” and the Senior student who was acting in the official capacity smiled in rather a patronizing manner. “Now if you check in together you’ll be doing well. Take it easy. You haven’t got much of a run, and you’ve oceans of time to do it in.”
“Huh! I guess you think this isn’t much of a Marathon,” remarked Jack, pausing to address the checker, who had marked their names down on a slip of paper.
“Neither it is, son,” came the answer. “In my day we had lots of stiffer ones.”
“And did the fellows all make good?” asked Tom, for though he and his chums had spent one year at Elmwood Hall this was the first big run they had taken part in, and on it depended much—their chance to play on the big eleven.