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|THE JESTER OF ST. TIMOTHY’S||1|
Lawrence launched himself and hurled the
runner backward (p. 194) Frontispiece
The canoes swung about and made for Each Other 52
As to who had won, Irving had not the Slightest Idea 140
A Shadow crossed Westby’s Face 220
From drawings by B. L. Bates
IRVING SETS FORTH ON HIS ADVENTURE
In the post-office of Beasley’s general store Irving Upton was eagerly sorting the mail. His eagerness at that task had not been abated by the repeated, the daily disappointments which it had caused him. During the whole summer month for which he had now been in attendance as Mr. Beasley’s clerk, the arrival of the mail had constituted his chief interest. And because that for which he had been hoping had failed to come, his thin face had grown more worried, and the brooding look was more constantly in his eyes.
This afternoon his hand paused; he looked at the superscription on an envelope unbelievingly. The letter came from St. Timothy’s School and was addressed to him. He finished distributing the other letters among the boxes, for people were waiting outside the partition; then he opened the envelope and read the type-written enclosure. A flush crept up over his cheeks, over his forehead; when he raised his eyes, the brooding look was no longer in them, but a quiet happiness instead, and his lips, which had so long been troubled, were smoothed out in a faint, contented smile. He read the letter a second time, then put it in his pocket, and stepped round behind the counter to sell five cents’ worth of pink gumdrops to little Abby Lawson.
When she had gone and the callers after mail had been satisfied, Irving sat down at the table in the back of the store. He read the letter again and mused over it for a few moments contentedly; then, with it lying open before him, he proceeded to write an answer.
After finishing that, he drew from his pocket some papers—French exercises, done in a scrawling, unformed hand.
It was the noon hour, when the people of the village were all eating their dinners; Mr. Beasley had gone home, and Irving was undisturbed. He helped himself to the crackers and dried beef which were his luncheon perquisites, and with these at his elbow and nibbling them from time to time he set about correcting his brother’s French.
He sighed in spite of the happiness which was pervading him; would Lawrence always go on confusing some of the forms of etre and avoir? Would he never learn to know the difference between ils ont and ils sont?
Irving made his corrections in a neat, pretty little hand, which of itself seemed to reprove the student’s awkward scrawl. He turned then to his own studies, which he was pursuing in a tattered volume of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the English Common Law. He did not get on very fast with this book, and sometimes he wondered what bearing it could have on the practice of the law in Ohio at the present time. But he had been advised to familiarize himself with the work in the interval before he should enter a law school—an interval of such doubtful length!
Mr. Beasley’s entrance caused him to look up.
“I shall be leaving you in less than a month now, Mr. Beasley,” he said.
“Got a job to teach, have you?” asked the storekeeper.
“Yes—at St. Timothy’s School.”
“Where may that be?”
“Up in New Hampshire.”
“Quite a ways off. But I suppose you don’t mind that much—having been away to college.”
“No, I think I’ll like it. Besides,—now Lawrence will be able to go to college this fall, and he and I will be pretty near each other. We’ll be able to spend our holidays together. I think it’s fine.”
“It does sound so,” agreed Mr. Beasley. “Well, I’ll be sorry to lose you, Irving. The folks all like to have you wait on ’em; you’re so polite and tidy. But I know clerking in a country store ain’t much of a job for a college graduate, and I’m glad you’ve found something better.”
“I’m glad if I’ve been of any use to you,” replied Irving. “I know you didn’t expect I would be when you took me in. And your giving me this chance has meant that I could stay on here and tutor Lawrence this summer and at the same time pay all my living expenses. It’s been more of a help than you know—to Lawrence as well as to me.”
“You’re both good boys,” said Mr. Beasley. “But it seems like you’re too shy and quiet ever to make much of a lawyer, Irving—or a teacher,” he added, in candid criticism.
Irving blushed. “Maybe I’ll get over that in time, Mr. Beasley.”
“You had better,” observed the storekeeper. “It’s of no manner of use to anybody—not a particle. Lawrence, now, is different.”
Yes, Lawrence was different; the fact impressed itself that evening on Irving when his brother came home from the haying field with his uncle. Lawrence was big and ruddy and laughing; Irving was slight and delicate and grave. The two boys went together to their room to make themselves ready for supper.
“We finished the north meadow to-day,” said Lawrence,—“the whole of it. So don’t blame me if I go to sleep over French verbs this evening.”
“I’ll tell you something that will wake you up,” Irving replied. “I’m going to teach at St. Timothy’s School—in New Hampshire. So your going to college is sure, and we’ll be only a couple of hours apart.”
“Oh, Irv!” In Lawrence’s exclamation there was more expressiveness, more joy, than in all his brother’s carefully restrained statement. “Oh, Irv! Isn’t it splendid! I think you’re the finest thing—!” Lawrence grasped Irving’s hand and at the same time began thumping him on the back. Then he opened the door and shouted down the stairs.
“Uncle Bob! Aunt Ann! Irv has some great news to-night.”
Mrs. Upton put her head out into the hall; she was setting the table and held a plate of bread.
“What is it, Irv? Have you—have you had a letter?”
There was an anxious, almost a regretful note in her voice.
“Yes,” said Irving. “I’ll tell you about it when I come down.”
At the supper table he expounded all the details. Like Mr. Beasley, his uncle and his aunt had never heard of St. Timothy’s School. Irving was able to enlighten them. At college he had become familiar with its reputation; it was one of the big preparatory schools in which the position of teacher had seemed to him desirable almost beyond the hope of attainment.
He recited the terms which had been offered and which he had accepted: nine hundred dollars salary the first year, with lodging, board, washing all provided—so that really it was the equivalent of fourteen or fifteen hundred dollars a year. And then there would be the three months’ vacation, in which he could prosecute his law studies and earn additional money.
“Sounds good,” said Mr. Upton.
“Of course I’m very glad,” said Mrs. Upton. “But how we shall miss you boys! I’ve got used to having Irving away,—but to be without Lawrence, too—”
“Yes,” said her husband with a twinkle in his eyes, “we certainly shall miss Lawrence—especially in haying time. I’m glad you didn’t get this news till most of the hay crop was in. No more farming for you this year, Lawrence.”
“Why, but there’s all the south meadow uncut—”
“I’ll handle that. As long as there was so much doubt as to whether you’d be able to go to college or not, I felt that you might be making yourself useful first of all and studying only in the odd moments. Now it’s different; you’ve got to settle down to hard study and nothing else. And Irving had better devote himself entirely to you, and leave Mr. Beasley to struggle along without any college help.”
“I don’t believe he’ll miss me very much,” Irving admitted. “And you’re right, Uncle Bob; I can accomplish a great deal more working with Lawrence this next month. I ought to be able to get him entered in regular standing.”
“If I can do that,” cried Lawrence, “perhaps I’ll be able to earn my way as Irv did—tutoring and so on—and not have to call on you or him for any help.”
“What on earth should I do with nine hundred a year?” Irving exclaimed.
“Save it for your law school fund,” said Lawrence.
Irving shrugged his shoulders grandly. “Oh, I can earn money.”
Lawrence gave him an affectionate push. “Tut!” he said. “Be good to yourself once in a while.”
It was a happy family that evening. The uncle and the aunt rejoiced in the good news, even while regretting the separation.
Mr. Upton, the younger brother of the boys’ father, who had been the village clergyman, shared his brother’s tastes; he read good books, he would travel to hear a celebrated man speak, he had ideas which were not bounded by his farm. He had encouraged Irving as well as Lawrence to seek a university education. The two boys were proud, eager to free themselves from dependence on the uncle and aunt who, after their father’s death, had given them a home. Irving had worked his way through college, hardly ever asking for help; he had been a capable scholar and the faculty had found for him backward students in need of tutoring.
Meanwhile, Mr. Upton had been busily engaged in developing and increasing his farm; that he was beginning to be prosperous Irving was aware; that he did not more earnestly insist upon helping his nephews stimulated their spirit of independence. They knew that they had been left penniless; Irving sometimes suspected his uncle of parsimony, yet this was a trait so incongruous with Mr. Upton’s genial nature that Irving never communicated the suspicion to his brother. Irving felt, too, that his uncle cared less for him than for Lawrence. Well, that was natural; Irving was humble there.
When the dean of the college had said that it would be inadvisable for Lawrence to make a start unless he had at least three hundred dollars at command, it had seemed to Irving a little narrow on his uncle’s part not to have come forward at once with that sum. Instead he had merely given Lawrence the opportunity to work harder in the hay-field and so increase his small bank account. And it had soon become apparent to Irving that unless he and Lawrence could between them raise the money, they need not look to their uncle for help beyond that which he was already giving. Therefore Irving went into Mr. Beasley’s store, and hoped daily for the letter which at last had come.
Day after day the two brothers worked together. Irving, quick, impatient, sometimes losing his temper; Lawrence, slow, calm, turning the edge of the teacher’s sarcasm sometimes with a laugh, sometimes with a quiet appeal. Irving always felt ashamed after these outbreaks and uneasily conscious that Lawrence conducted himself with greater dignity. And Lawrence forgot Irving’s irritations in gratitude to him for his help. “It must be a trial to teach such a numskull,” Lawrence thought; and at the end of one particularly hard day he undertook to console his brother by saying, “Never mind, Irv; it won’t be long now before you have pupils who aren’t country bumpkins and don’t need to have things pounded into their heads with an axe.”
It had been a rather savage remark that had called this out; Irving threw down his book and perching on the arm of his brother’s chair, put his arm around his neck and begged his forgiveness.
“As if I could ever like to teach anybody else as much as I like to teach you!” he exclaimed. “I’m sorry, Lawrence; I’ll try to keep a little better grip on myself.”
Sometimes it seemed to Irving odd that Lawrence should be so slow at his books; Irving did not fail to realize that with the neighbors or with strangers, in any gathering whatsoever, Lawrence was always quick, sympathetic, interested; he himself was the one who seemed dull and immature.
It had been so with him at college; he had been merely the student of books. Social life he had had none, and only now, with the difference between his brother and himself enforcing a clearer vision, had he become aware of some deficiency in his education. In silence he envied Lawrence and wished that he too possessed such winning and engaging traits.
He realized the contrast with especial keenness on the afternoon when he and Lawrence began their eastward journey. There was a party assembled at the station to see them off,—to see Lawrence off, as Irving reflected, for never on his own previous departures had he occasioned any such demonstration.
Lawrence was presented on the platform with various farewell gifts—a pair of knit slippers from Sally Buxton, who was the prettiest girl in the valley and who tried to slip them into his hand when no one else was looking, and blushed when Nora Carson unfeelingly called attention to her shy attempt; a pair of mittens from old Mrs. Fitch; a pocket comb and mirror from the Uptons’ hired man; a paper bag of doughnuts from Mrs. Brumby.
There were no gifts for Irving; indeed, he had never cared or thought much, one way or the other, about any of these people clustered on the platform. Only this summer, seeing them so frequently in Mr. Beasley’s store, he had felt the first stirrings of interest in them; now for the first time he was aware of a wistfulness because they did not care for him as they did for Lawrence.
Mr. Beasley came up to him. “So you’re off—both of you. Funny thing—I guess from the looks of you two, if a stranger was to come along, he’d pick Lawrence out for the teacher and you for the schoolboy. Lawrence looks as old as you, and handles himself more grown up, somehow.”
“He’s bigger,” Irving sighed.
“Yes, ’t ain’t only that,” drawled Mr. Beasley. “Though ’t is a pity you’re so spindling; good thing for a teacher to be able to lay on the switch good and hard when needed.”
“I don’t believe they punish with the switch at St. Timothy’s.”
“Then I guess they don’t learn the boys much. How you going to keep order among boys if you don’t use the switch?”
At that moment the train came whistling round the bend. Irving caught up his bag, turned and grasped Mr. Beasley’s hand, then plunged into the crowd which had closed about his brother. His aunt turned and flung her arms about him and kissed him; his uncle gave him a good-natured pat on the back and then stooped and said in his ear, “Irv, if you ever get into trouble,—go to Lawrence.”
There was the merry, kindly twinkle in his eyes, the quizzical, humorous smile on his lips that made Irving know his uncle meant always, deep in his heart, to do the right thing.
In the train he pondered for a few moments that last word of advice, wondering if it had been sincere. It rather hurt his dignity, to be referred to his younger brother in that way—and yet it pleased him too; he was glad to have Lawrence appreciated.
Irving spent a day in Cambridge, helping his brother to get settled in the rooms which he himself had occupied for four years. Then he bade Lawrence good-by and resumed his journey to New Hampshire.
It was a pleasant September morning when he presented himself, a sallow, thin-cheeked, narrow-shouldered, bespectacled youth, before Dr. Davenport, the rector of St. Timothy’s School. The sunlight streamed in through the southern windows of the spacious library, throwing mellow tints on the bindings of the books which lined the opposite wall from floor to ceiling. It was all so bright that Irving, who was troubled with weak eyes, advanced into it blinking; and perhaps that was one reason for the disappointment which flitted across the rector’s face—and which Irving, who was acutely sensitive, perceived in his blinking glance. He flushed, aware that somehow his appearance was too timorous.
But Dr. Davenport chatted with him pleasantly, told him how highly the college authorities had recommended him, and only laughingly intimated a surprise at finding him so young-looking.
“I hope that teaching won’t age you prematurely,” he added. “You will probably have some trying times with the boys—we all do. But it oughtn’t to be hard for you—especially as you will be thrown most of all with the older boys. Mr. Williams, who has had charge of the Sixth Form dormitory at the Upper School, is ill with typhoid fever and will probably not come back this term. So I’m going to put you in charge there. You will have under you twenty fellows, some of them the best in the school. But just because they are in some ways pretty mature, don’t be—don’t be self-effacing.”
“I understand,” said Irving. He sat on the edge of his chair, and crumpled his handkerchief nervously in his hands. And all the time—with his singular clearness of intuition—he was aware of the doubt and distrust passing through Dr. Davenport’s mind.
“Don’t be afraid of the boys or show embarrassment or discomfort before them,” continued Dr. Davenport, “and on the other hand don’t try to cultivate dignity by being cold and austere. Be natural with them—but always be the master.—There!” he broke off, smiling, for he saw that Irving looked worried and seemed to be taking all this as personal criticism—“that’s the talk that I always give to a new master; and now I’m done. Here is a printed copy of the rules and regulations which I advise you to study; you must try to familiarize yourself with our customs before any of the boys arrive. To-morrow the new boys will come, and you will report for duty at the Gymnasium, where the entrance examinations will be held. You will find your room in the Sixth Form dormitory, at the Upper School. I hope you will like the life here, Mr. Upton—and I wish you every possible success in it.”
The rector gave him an encouraging handshake and another friendly smile. But Irving departed feeling depressed and afraid. He had seen that the rector was disappointed in him—in his appearance, in his manner. And the rector’s little speech had given him the clue. Until now, he had not much considered how large a part of his work would be in the management and the discipline of the boys; the mere teaching of them was what had been in his mind, and for that he felt perfectly competent. In college, that was all that the tutoring, in which he had been so successful, meant. But, confronted by the necessity of establishing and maintaining friendly human relations with a lot of strange boys, Irving for the first time questioned his qualifications, realizing that the rector too was questioning them.
He became more cheerful the next day, when the new boys began to arrive and he found himself at once with work to do. He had mastered pretty thoroughly the names of the buildings and the geography of the place, and it was rather pleasant to be able to give information and directions to those younger and more ignorant than himself.
It was pleasant, too, to have one mother who was wandering round vaguely with her small son and to whom he shyly proffered assistance, show such appreciation of his courtesy and end by appealing to him to keep always a friendly eye on her little forlorn Walter. As it turned out, Irving never afterwards came much into contact with the boy, who lived in a different building and was not in any of his classes; he asked about him from time to time, and discovered that Walter was a mischievous person, not troubled by homesickness.
But most agreeable and reassuring was it to take charge of the examination-room, where the new boys were undergoing the tests of their scholarship. Most of them were candidates for the Second, Third, and Fourth Forms, and their ages ranged from twelve to fifteen; Irving sat at a desk on the platform and surveyed them while they worked, or tiptoed down the aisle in response to an appeal from some uplifted hand.
He had come so recently from examination-rooms where he had been one of the pupils that this experience exhilarated him; it conferred upon him an authority that he enjoyed. He liked to be addressed by these nice-mannered young boys as “sir,” and to be recognized by them so unquestioningly as a person to whom deference must be shown. Altogether this first day with the new boys inspired him with confidence, and at the end of it he attacked the pile of examination books enthusiastically.
Mr. Barclay aided him in that task; Mr. Barclay was a young master also, comparatively, though he had had several years’ experience. Irving was attracted to him at once, and was grateful for the way in which he made suggestions when there was some uncertainty as to how a boy should be graded.
Irving liked, too, the genial chuckle which preceded an invitation to inspect some candidate’s egregious blunder; Irving would read and smile quietly, unaware that Barclay was watching him and wondering how appreciative he might be of the ludicrous.
Two nights Irving spent all alone in the Sixth Form dormitory; it amused him to walk up and down the corridors with the list of those to whom rooms there had been assigned. “Collingwood, Westby, Scarborough, Morrill, Anderson, Baldersnaith, Hill”—some of them had occupied these rooms as Fifth Formers, and Irving had asked Mr. Barclay about them.
Louis Collingwood was captain of the school football team; Scarborough was captain of the school crew.
“Neither of them will give you any trouble,” said Barclay. “Scarborough used to be a cub, but he has developed very much in the last year or two, and now he and Collingwood are the best-liked fellows in the school. They have a proper sense of their responsibility as leaders of the school, and are more likely to help you than to make trouble. Morrill is their faithful follower, though a little harum-scarum at times. Westby—” the master hesitated over that name and looked at Irving with a measuring glance—“Westby is what you might call the school jester. He’s very popular with the boys—not equally so with all the masters. Personally I’m rather fond of him. He’s almost too quick-witted sometimes.”
That evening Barclay took the new master home to dine with him. Mrs. Barclay was as cordial and as kind as her husband; Irving began to feel more than satisfied with his surroundings.
“Pity you’re not married, Upton,” Barclay said, half jokingly. “You’d escape keeping dormitory if you were—which you’ll find the meanest of all possible jobs. And then if your wife’s the right kind—the boys have to be pretty decent to you in order to keep on her good side.”
Mrs. Barclay laughed. “I suppose that’s the only reason they’re pretty decent to you, William!—You’ll find it easy, Mr. Upton,—for the reason that they’re a pretty decent lot of boys.”
The next day at noon the old boys began to arrive. Irving was coming out of the auditorium, where he had been correcting the last set of examination papers, when a barge drew up before the study building and boys clutching hand-bags tumbled out and hurried into the building to greet the rector.
Irving stood for a few moments looking on with interest: other barges kept coming over the hill, interspersed with carriages, in which a few arrived more magnificently.
It occurred to Irving that perhaps he had better hasten to his dormitory in order to be on hand when his charges should begin to appear; he was just starting away when three boys arm in arm rushed out of the study building. They came prancing up to him, all smiles and twinkles; they were boys of seventeen or eighteen. They confronted him, blocking his path; and the one in the middle, a slim, straight fellow in a blue suit, said,—
“Hello, new kid! What name?”
A blush of embarrassment mounted in Irving’s cheeks; feeling it, he conceived it all the more advisable to assert his dignity. So he said without a smile, in a constrained voice,—
“I am not a new kid. I am a master.”
The three boys who had been beaming on him with good humor in their eyes stared blankly. Then the one in the middle, with a sudden whoop of laughter, swung the two others round and led them off at a run; and as they went, their delighted laughter floated back to Irving’s ears.
His cheeks were tingling, almost as if they had been slapped. He followed the boys at a distance; they moved towards the Upper School. His heart sank; what if they were in his dormitory?
He entered the building just as the last of the three was going up the Sixth Form dormitory stairs.
HE ACHIEVES A NAME FOR HIMSELF
At the foot of the staircase Irving hesitated until the sound of the voices and footsteps had ceased. The three boys had not seen him when he had entered; he was wondering whether he had better be courageous, go right up after them, and introduce himself,—just as if they had not caught him off his guard and put him into a ridiculous position,—or delay a little while in the hope that their memory of it would be less keen.
He decided that he had better be courageous. When he reached the top floor, he went into his room; he was feeling nervous over the prospect of confronting his charges, and he wished to be sure that his hair and his necktie looked right. While he was examining himself in the mirror, he heard a door open on the corridor and a boy call, “Lou! Did you know that Mr. Williams won’t be back this term?”
Farther down the corridor a voice answered, “No! What’s the matter?”
“Typhoid. Mr. Randolph told me.”
“Who’s taken his place?” It was another voice that asked this question.
“A new man—named Upton. I haven’t laid eyes on him yet.”
“Wouldn’t it be a joke—!” The speaker paused to laugh. “Suppose it should turn out to be the new kid!”
“‘I am not a new kid; I am a master.’”
The mimicry was so accurate that Irving winced and then flushed to the temples. In the laughter that it produced he closed his door quietly and sat down to think. He couldn’t be courageous now; he felt that he could not step out and face those fellows who were laughing at him. Of course they were the ones who ought to be embarrassed by his appearance, not he; but Irving felt they would lend one another support and brazen it through, and that he would be the one to exhibit weakness. He decided that he must wait and try to make himself known to each one of them separately—that only by such a beginning would he be likely to engage their respect.
It was the first time that he had been brought face to face with his pitiable diffidence. He was ashamed; he thought of how differently Lawrence would have met the situation—how much more directly he would have dealt with it. Irving resolved that hereafter he would not be afraid of any multitude of boys. But he refrained from making his presence known in the dormitory that afternoon.
At half past five o’clock he went downstairs to the rooms of Mr. Randolph, who had charge of the Upper School. Mr. Marcy, the Fifth Form dormitory master, and Mr. Wythe, the Fourth Form dormitory master, were also there. They were veterans, comparatively, and it was to meet them and benefit by what they could tell him that Irving had been invited. All three congratulated him on his good fortune in obtaining the Sixth Form dormitory.
“The older they are, the less trouble they are,” said Wythe. “My first year I was over at the Lower School, looking after the little kids. Half the time they’re sick and whimpering and have to be coddled, and the rest of the time they have to be spanked.”
“It hardly matters what age they are,” lamented Marcy, pessimistically. “There’s bound to be a dormitory disorder once in so often.”
“What do you do in that case?” asked Irving.
“Jump hard on some one,” answered Wythe. “Try to get the leader of it, but if you can’t get him, get somebody. Report him,—give him three sheets.”
“That means writing Latin lines for three hours on half-holidays?”
“Yes, and six marks off in Decorum for the week. Of course they’ll come wheedling round you, wanting to be excused; you have to use your own discretion about that.”
“Do you have any Sixth Form classes?” asked Marcy.
“Yes,” Irving answered. “In Geometry.”
“That means you’ll have to take the upper hand and hold it, right from the start. If you have one crowd in dormitory to look after and another crowd in class, you can afford to relax a little now and then; but when it’s the same boys in both—they watch for any sign of weakening.”
“There will be only two of them at your table, any way, Mr. Upton,” said Randolph. He passed over a list. “The others are all Fourth and Fifth Formers—only Westby and Carroll from the Sixth!”
“Westby!” Wythe sighed. “Maybe we were premature in congratulating you. I’d forgotten about Westby.”
“What is the matter with him?” asked Irving.
“His cleverness, and his attractiveness. He smiles and smiles and is a villain still. He was in my dormitory year before last and kept it in a constant turmoil. And yet if you have any sense of humor at all you can’t help being amused by him—even sympathizing with him—though it’s apt to be at your own expense.”
“He’s perfectly conscienceless,” declared Marcy.
“And yet there’s no real harm in him,” said Randolph.
“He seems to be something of a puzzle.” Irving spoke uneasily. “And he’s to be at my table—I’m to have a table?”
“Oh, yes. In fact, one or two of the Sixth Formers—Scarborough, for instance—have tables. But we don’t let all the Sixth Formers eat together; we try to scatter them. And Westby and Carroll have fallen to your lot.”
“If you happen to see either of them before supper, I should like to meet them,” Irving said.
He felt that if he could make their acquaintance separately and without witnesses, he could produce a better impression than if he waited and confronted them before a whole table of strange faces.
But as it happened, that was just the way that he did meet Westby and Carroll. When the supper bell sounded, the hallway of the Upper School was crowded with boys, examining the schedule which had been posted and which assigned them to their seats in the dining-room. Irving, after waiting nervously until more than half the number had entered the dining-room and deriving no help from any of the other masters, went in and stood at the head of the third table, as he had been instructed to do. Four or five boys were already standing there at their places; they looked at him with curiosity and bowed to him politely. The crowd as it entered thinned; Irving was beginning to hope that Westby and Carroll had gone elsewhere,—and then, just as Mr. Randolph was mounting to the head table on the dais, two boys slipped in and stood at the seats at Irving’s right. He recognized them as having been two of the three who had laughed when he had proclaimed himself a master. One was the slim, tall fellow who had called him “new kid.”
For a moment at Irving’s table, after the boys had rattled into their seats, there was silence. In front of Irving were a platter of cold tongue and a dish of beans, and he began to put portions of each on the plates piled before him. Then as he passed the first plate along the line he looked up and said, “I think we’d better find out who everybody is. So each fellow, as he gets his plate, will please sing out his name.”
That was not such a bad beginning; there was a general grin which broadened into a laugh when the first boy blushingly owned to the name of Walnut. Then came Lacy and Norris, and then Westby.
“Oh,” said Irving. “I think you’re to be in my dormitory, aren’t you?”
“I believe so.” Westby looked at him quizzically, as if expecting him to make some reference to their encounter; but Irving passed on to his next neighbor, Carroll, and then began with the other side of the table.
He liked the appearance of the boys; they were quiet-looking and respectful, and they had been responsive enough to his suggestion about announcing their names. A happy inspiration told him that so long as he could keep on taking the initiative with boys, he would have no serious trouble. But it was one thing to recognize an effective mode of conduct, and another to have the resourcefulness for carrying it out. Irving was just thinking what next he should say, when Westby fell upon him.
“Mr. Upton,”—Westby’s voice was curiously distinct, in spite of its quietness,—“wasn’t it funny, our taking you for a new kid this afternoon?”
Because the question was so obviously asked in a lull to embarrass him, Irving was embarrassed. The interest of all the boys at the table had been skillfully excited, and Westby leaned forward in front of Carroll, with mischievous eyes and smile. Irving felt his color rising; he felt both abashed and annoyed.
“Why, yes,” he said hesitatingly. “I—I was a little startled.”
“Did they take you for a new kid, Mr. Upton?” asked Blake, the Fifth Former, who sat on Irving’s left.
“For a moment, yes,” admitted Irving, anxious not to pursue the subject.
But Westby proceeded to explain with gusto, while the whole table listened. “Lou Collingwood and Carrie here and I were in front of the Study, and out came Mr. Upton. And Lou wanted to nail him for the Pythians, so we all pranced up to him, and I said, ’Hello, new kid; what name, please?’—just like that; didn’t I, Mr. Upton?”
“Yes,” said Irving grudgingly. He had an uneasy feeling that he was being made an object of general entertainment; certainly the eyes of all the boys at the table were fixed upon him smilingly.
“What happened then?” asked the blunt Blake.
“Why, then,” continued Westby, “Mr. Upton told us that he wasn’t a new kid at all, but a new master. You may imagine we were surprised—weren’t we, Mr. Upton?”
“Oh, I could hardly tell—”
“The joke was certainly on us. As the French say, it was a contretemps. To think that after all the years we’d been here, we couldn’t tell a new kid from a new master!”
Irving was mildly bewildered. He could not quite determine whether Westby was telling the story more as a joke on himself or on him. Anyway, in spite of the temporary embarrassment which they had caused him, there seemed to be nothing offensive in the remarks. He liked Westby’s face; it was alert and good-humored, and the cajoling quality in the boy’s voice and the twinkle in his eyes were quite attractive. In fact, his manner during supper was so agreeable that Irving quite forgot it was this youth whom he had overheard mimicking him: “I am not a new kid; I am a master.”
After supper there were prayers in the Common Room; then all the boys except the Sixth Formers went to the Study building to sit for an hour under the eyes of a master, to read or write letters. On subsequent evenings they would have to employ this period in studying, but as yet no lessons had been assigned; the classroom work had not begun. The Sixth Form were exempt from the necessity of attending Study, and had the privilege of preparing their lessons in their own rooms. Irving found, on going up to his dormitory, that the boys were visiting one another, helping one another unpack, darting up and down the corridor and carrying on loud conversations. He decided, as there were no lessons for them to prepare, not to interfere; their sociability seemed harmless enough.
So, leaving the door of his room open that he might hear and suppress any incipient disorder, he began a letter to Lawrence. He thought at first that he would confide to his brother the little troubles which were annoying him. But when he set about it, they seemed really too petty to transcribe; surely he was man enough to bear such worries without appealing to a younger brother for advice.
There was a loud burst of laughter from a room in which several boys had gathered. It was followed by the remark in Westby’s pleasant, persuasive voice,—
“Look out, fellows, or we’ll have Kiddy Upton down on us.”
“Kiddy Upton!” another voice exclaimed in delight, and there was more laughter.
Kiddy Upton! So that was to be his name. Of course boys gave nicknames to their teachers,—Irving remembered some appellations that had prevailed even at college. But none of them seemed so slighting or so jeering as this of Kiddy; and Irving flushed as he had done when he had been taken for a “new kid.” But now his sensitiveness was even more hurt; it wounded him that Westby, that pleasant, humorous person, should have been the one to apply the epithet.
Westby began singing “The Wearing of the Green,” to an accompaniment on a banjo. Presently four or five voices, with extravagant brogues, were uplifted in the chorus:—
“’Tis the most
That ever there was seen;
For they’re hanging men and women too
For wearin’ of the green.”
There was much applause; boys from other rooms went hurrying down the corridor. The banjo-player struck up “The Road to Mandalay;” again Irving recognized Westby’s voice.
Irving decided that he must not be thin-skinned; it was his part to step up, be genial, make himself known to all these boys who were to be under his care, and show them that he wished to be friendly. He did not wait to debate with himself the wisdom of this resolve or to consider how he should proceed; he acted on the impulse. He walked down the corridor to the third room on the left—the door of Westby’s room, from which the sounds of joviality proceeded. He knocked; some one called “Come in;” and Irving opened the door.
Three boys sat in chairs, three sat on the bed; Westby himself was squatting cross-legged on the window seat, with the banjo across his knees. They all rose politely when Irving entered.
“I thought I would drop in and make your acquaintance,” said Irving. “We’re bound to know one another some time.”
“My name’s Collingwood,” said the boy nearest him, offering his hand. He was a healthy, light-haired, solidly put together youth, with a genial smile. “This is Scarborough, Mr. Upton.”
The biggest of them all came forward at that and shook hands. Irving thought that his deep-set dark eyes were disconcertingly direct in their gaze; and a lock of black hair overhung his brow in a far from propitiating manner. Yet his bearing was dignified and manly; Irving felt that he might be trusted to show magnanimity.
“Here’s Carroll,” continued Collingwood; and Irving said, “Oh, I know Carroll; we sat together at supper.” Carroll said nothing, merely smiled in an agreeable, non-committal manner; so far it was all that Irving had discovered he could do.
“That fellow with the angel face is Morrill,” Collingwood went on, “and the one next to him, with the aristocratic features, is Baldersnaith, and this red-head here is Dennison,—and that’s Westby.”
Irving, shaking hands round the circle, said, “Oh, I know Westby.”
“Sit down, won’t you, Mr. Upton?” Westby pushed his armchair forward.
“Thank you; don’t let me interrupt the singing.”
“Maybe you’ll join us?”
Irving shook his head. “I wish I could. But please go on.”
Westby squatted again on the window-seat and plucked undecidedly at the banjo-strings. Then he cleared his throat and launched upon a negro melody; he sang it with the unctuous abandon of the darkey, and Irving listened and looked on enviously, admiring the display of talent. Westby sang another song, and then turned and pushed up the window.
“Awfully hot for this time of year, isn’t it?” he said. “Fine moonlight night; wouldn’t it be great to go for a swim?”
“Um!” said Morrill, appreciatively.
“Will you let us go, Mr. Upton?” Westby asked the question pleadingly. “Won’t you please let us go? It’s such a fine warm moonlight night—and it isn’t as if school had really begun, you know.”
“But I think the rules don’t permit your being out at this time of night, do they?” said Irving.
“Well, but as I say, school hasn’t really begun yet. And besides, Scabby here is almost as good as a master—and so is Lou Collingwood; I’m the only really irresponsible one in the bunch—”
“Where do you go to swim?”
“In the pond, just beyond the isthmus—only about a quarter of a mile from here. Come on, fellows, Mr. Upton’s going to let us go.”
Irving laughed uneasily. “Oh, I didn’t say that. If Mr. Randolph is willing that you should go, I wouldn’t object.”
“You’re in charge of this dormitory,” argued Westby. “And if you gave us permission, Mr. Randolph wouldn’t say anything.”
“I don’t feel that I can make an exception to the rules,” said Irving.
“But school hasn’t really begun yet,” persisted Westby.
“I think it really has, so far as observing the rules is concerned,” replied Irving.
“You might go with us, sir—and that would make it all right.”
“But I don’t believe I want to go in swimming this evening.”
“I’m awfully afraid you’re going to be just like granite, Mr. Upton,” sighed Westby,—“the man with the iron jaw.” He turned on the others a humorous look; they all were smiling. Irving felt uncomfortable again, suspecting that Westby was making game of him, yet not knowing in what way to meet it—except by silence.
“I’ll tell you what I will do with you to-morrow, Wes,” said Collingwood. “I’ll challenge you to that water duel that we were to have pulled off last June.”
“All right, Lou,” said Westby. “Carrie here will be my trusty squire and will paddle my canoe.”
Carroll grinned his assent.
“I’ll pick Ned Morrill for my second,” said Collingwood. “And Scabby can be referee.”
“What’s a water duel?” asked Irving.
“They go out in canoes, two in each canoe,” answered Scarborough. “One fellow paddles, and the other stands up in the bow with a long pole and a big fat sponge tied to the end of it. Then the two canoes manoeuvre, and try to get within striking distance, and the fellow or canoe that gets upset first loses. We had a tournament last spring, and these two pairs came through to the finals, but never fought it out—baseball or tennis or something always interfered.”
“It must be quite an amusing game,” said Irving.
“Come up to the swimming hole to-morrow afternoon if you want to see it,” said Collingwood, hospitably. “I’ll just about drown Westby. It will be a good show.”
“Thank you; I’d like to—”
“But don’t you think, Mr. Upton,”—again it was Westby, with his cajoling voice and his wheedling smile,—“that I might have just one evening’s moonlight practice for it?”
“Oh, I don’t believe you need any practice.”
“But you said I might if Mr. Randolph would consent. I don’t see why you shouldn’t be independent, as well as liberal.”
There was a veiled insinuation in this, for all the good-natured, teasing tone, and Irving did not like it.
“No,” he said. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t let you go swimming to-night.—I’m glad to have met you all.” And so he took his departure, and presently the sound of banjo and singing rose again from Westby’s room.
Irving proceeded to visit the other rooms of the dormitory and to make the acquaintance of the occupants—boys engaged mostly in arranging bureau drawers or hanging pictures. They were all friendly enough; it seemed to him that he could get on with boys individually; it was when they faced him in numbers that they alarmed him and caused his manner to be hesitating and embarrassed. One big fellow named Allison was trying to hang a picture when Irving entered; it was a large and heavy picture, and Irving held it straight while Allison stood on a chair and set the hook on the moulding. Allison thanked Irving with the gratitude of one unaccustomed to receiving such consideration; indeed, his uncouthness and unkemptness made him one of those unfortunate boys who suffered now and then from persecution. Irving learned afterwards that the crowd he had met in Westby’s room hung together and were the leaders not merely in the affairs of the dormitory, but of the school.
At half past nine the big bell on the Study building rang twice—the signal for the boys to go to their respective rooms. Irving had been informed of the little ceremony which was the custom; he stepped out in front of his door at the end of the corridor, and one after another the boys came up, shook hands with him, and bade him good-night. Westby came to him with the engaging and yet somewhat disquieting smile which recalled to Irving Mr. Wythe’s words, “He smiles and smiles, but is a villain still.” It was a smile which seemed to suggest the discernment and enjoyment of all one’s weak spots.
“Good-night, Mr. Upton,” said Westby, and his voice was excessively urbane. It made Irving look forward to a better acquaintance with both expectancy and apprehension.
The first morning of actual school work went well enough; Irving met his classes, which were altogether in mathematics, assigned them lessons, and managed to keep them and himself busy. From one of them he brought away some algebra exercises, which he spent part of the afternoon in correcting. When he had finished this work, the invitation to witness the water duel occurred to his mind.
He found no other master to bear him company, so he set off by himself through the woods which bordered the pond behind the Gymnasium. He came at last to the “isthmus”—a narrow dyke of stones which cut off a long inlet and bridged the way over to a wooded peninsula that jutted out into the pond. On the farther side of this peninsula, secluded behind trees and bushes, was the swimming hole.
As Irving approached, he heard voices; he drew nearer and saw the bare backs of boys undressing and heard then the defiances which they were hurling at one another—phrased in the language of Ivanhoe.
“Nay, by my halidome, but I shall this day do my devoir right worthily upon the body of yon false knight,” quoth Westby, as he carefully turned his shirt right side out.
“A murrain on thee! Beshrew me if I do not spit thee upon my trusty lance,” replied Collingwood, as he drew on his swimming tights.
Then some one trotted out upon the spring-board, gave a bounce and a leap, and went into the water with a splash.
“How is it, Ned?” called Westby; and Irving came up as Morrill, reaching out for a long side stroke, shouted, “Oh, fine—warm and fine.”
“Hello, Mr. Upton.” It was Baldersnaith who first saw him; Baldersnaith, Dennison, and Smythe were fully dressed and were sitting under a tree looking on.
“You’re just in time,” said Collingwood.
Scarborough, stripped like Westby and Carroll and Morrill and Collingwood, was out on the pond, paddling round in a canoe. He was crouched on one knee in the middle, and the canoe careened over with his weight, so that the gunwale was only an inch or two above the surface. He was evidently an expert paddler, swinging the craft round, this way and that, without ever taking the paddle out of the water.
Two other canoes were hauled up near the spring-board; Carroll was bending over one of them.
“Bring me my lethal weapon, Carrie,” Westby commanded. “I want to show Mr. Upton.—Is the button on tight?”
Carroll produced from the canoe a long pole with an enormous sponge fastened to one end; he pulled at the sponge and announced, “Yes, the button’s on tight,” and passed the pole over to Westby.
Westby made one or two experimental lunges with it and remarked musingly, “When I catch him square above the bread line with this—!”
“Come on, then!” said Collingwood. “Come here, Ned!”
Morrill swam ashore and pushed off in one of the canoes with Collingwood—taking the stern seat and the paddle. Collingwood knelt in the bow, with his spear laid across the gun-wales in front of him. In like manner Westby and Carroll took to the water.
“This is the best two bouts out of three,” called Scarborough, as he circled round. “Don’t you want to come aboard, Mr. Upton, and help judge?”
“Why, yes, thank you,” said Irving.
So Scarborough called, “Wait a moment, fellows,” and paddling ashore, took on his passenger. Then he sped out to the middle of the bay; the two other canoes were separated by about fifty feet.
“Charge!” cried Scarborough, and Morrill and Carroll began paddling towards each other, while in the bows Collingwood and Westby rose to their feet and held their spears in front of them. They advanced cautiously and then swung apart, evading the collision—each trying to tempt the other to stab and overreach.
“Oh, you’re both scared!” jeered Baldersnaith from the shore.
The canoes swung about and made for each other again; and this time passed within striking distance. Westby’s aim missed, his sponge-tipped lance slid past Collingwood’s shoulder, and the next instant Collingwood’s sponge—well weighted with water—smote Westby full in the chest and hove him overboard. For one moment Carroll struggled to keep the canoe right side up, but in vain; it tipped and filled, and with a shout he plunged in head foremost after his comrade.
They came up and began to push their canoe ashore; the two other canoes drew alongside and assisted, Scarborough and Morrill paddling, while Irving and Collingwood laid hold of the thwarts.
“That’s all right; I’ll get you this time,” spluttered Westby. “We’re going to use strategy now.”
They emptied the water out of the canoe and proceeded again to the battleground. Then, when Scarborough gave the word, Carroll began paddling madly; he and Westby bore down upon their antagonists at a most threatening speed. Morrill swung to the right to get out of their path; and then suddenly Carroll swung in the opposite direction—with what strategic purpose neither Irving nor Scarborough had time to conjecture. For they were loitering close on that side, not expecting any such manoeuvre; the sharp turn drove the bow of Carroll’s canoe straight for the waist of Scarborough’s, and Westby with an excited laugh undertook to fend off with his pole, lost his balance, and trying to recover it, upset both canoes together.
Irving felt himself going, heard Westby’s laughing shout, “Look out, Mr. Upton!” and then went under.
[Illustration: The canoes swung about and made for each other]
The water was warm, but Irving swallowed a good deal of it and also was conscious of the fact that he had on a perfectly good suit of clothes. So he came to the surface, choking and annoyed; and when he recovered his faculties, he observed first of all Westby’s grinning face.
“You can swim all right, can’t you, Mr. Upton?” said Westby. “I thought for a moment we might have to dive for you.”
Irving clutched at the stern of the capsized canoe and said, rather curtly, “I’m not dressed to enjoy swimming.”
“I’m awfully sorry,” said Scarborough. “But I never thought they were going to turn that way; I don’t know what Carrie thought he was doing—”
“I’d have shown you some strategy if you hadn’t blundered into us,” declared Carroll.
“Blundered into you! There was no need for Wes to give us such a poke, anyhow.”
Westby replied merely with an irritating chuckle—irritating at least to Irving, who felt that he should be showing more contrition.
Collingwood and Morrill came alongside, both laughing, jeering at Westby and offering polite expressions of solicitude to the master. They told him to lay hold of the tail of their canoe, and then they towed him ashore as rapidly as possible. When he drew himself up, dripping, on the bank, Baldersnaith, Dennison, and Smythe were all on the broad grin, and from the water floated the sound of Westby’s merriment.
Irving stood for a moment, letting himself drip, quite undecided as to what he should do. He had never been ducked before, with all his clothes on; the clammy, weighted sensation was most unpleasant, the thought of his damaged and perhaps ruined suit was galling, the indignity of his appearance was particularly hard to bear. He felt that Baldersnaith and the others were trying to be as polite and considerate as possible, and yet they could not refrain from exhibiting their amusement, their delight.
Scarborough, who had swum ahead of the others, waded ashore and looked him over. “I tell you what you’d better do, Mr. Upton,” he said. “You’d better take your clothes off, wring them out, and spread them out to dry. They’ll dry in this sun and wind. And while they’re doing that, you can come in swimming with us.”
Irving hesitated a moment; instinct told him that the advice was sensible, yet he shrank from accepting it; he felt that for a master to do what Scarborough suggested would be undignified, and might somehow compromise his position. “I think I’d better run home and rub myself down and put on some dry things,” he replied.
“Well,” said Scarborough, “just as you say. Sorry I got you into this mess.”
“Oh, it’s all right,” said Irving.
He walked away, with the water trickling uncomfortably down him inside his clothes and swashing juicily in his shoes. He liked Scarborough for the way he had acted, but he felt less kindly towards Westby. He was by no means sure that Westby had not deliberately soused him and then pretended it was an accident. He remembered Westby’s mirthful laugh just when the thing was happening; and certainly if it had really been an accident Westby had shown very little concern. He had been indecently amused; he was so still; his clear joyous laugh was ringing after Irving even now, and Irving felt angrily that he was at this moment a ridiculous figure. To be running home drenched!—probably it would have been better if he had done what Scarborough had suggested, less undignified, more manly really. But he couldn’t turn back now.
He was cold and his teeth had begun to chatter, so he started to run. He hoped that when he came out of the woods he might be fortunate enough to elude observation on the way to the Upper School, but in this he was disappointed. As he jogged by the Study building, with his clothes jouncing and slapping heavily upon his shoulders, out came the rector and met him face to face.
“Upset canoeing?” asked the rector with a smile.
“Yes,” Irving answered; he stood for a moment awkwardly.
“Well, it will happen sometimes,” said the rector. “Don’t catch cold.” And he passed on.
There was some consolation for Irving in this matter-of-fact view. In the rector’s eyes apparently his dignity had not suffered by the incident. But when a moment later he passed a group of Fourth Formers and they turned and stared at him, grinning, he felt that his dignity had suffered very much. He felt that within a short time his misfortune would be the talk of the school.
At supper it was as he expected it would be. Westby set about airing the story for the benefit of the table, appealing now and then to Irving himself for confirmation of the passages which were least gratifying to Irving’s vanity. “You did look so woe-begone when you stood up on shore, Mr. Upton,” was the genial statement which Irving especially resented. To have Westby tell the boys the first day how he had called the new master a new kid and the second day how he had ducked him was a little too much; it seemed to Irving that Westby was slyly amusing himself by undermining his authority. But the boy’s manner was pleasantly ingratiating always; Irving felt baffled. Carroll did not help him much towards an interpretation; Carroll sat by self-contained, quietly intelligent, amused. Irving liked both the boys, and yet as the days passed, he seemed to grow more and more uneasy and anxious in their society.
In the classroom he was holding his own; he was a good mathematical scholar, he prepared the lessons thoroughly, and he found it generally easy to keep order by assigning problems to be worked out in class. The weather continued good, so that during play time the fellows were out of doors instead of loafing round in dormitory. They all had their own little affairs to organize; athletic clubs and literary societies held their first meetings; there was a process of general shaking down; and in the interest and industry occasioned by all this, there was not much opportunity or disposition to make trouble.
But the first Sunday was a bad day. In a boys’ school bad weather is apt to be accompanied by bad behavior; on this Sunday it poured. The boys, having put on their best clothes, were obliged, when they went out to chapel, to wear rubbers and to carry umbrellas—an imposition against which they rebelled. After chapel, there was an hour before dinner, and in that hour most of the Sixth Formers sought their rooms—or sought one another’s rooms; it seemed to Irving, who was trying to read and who had a headache, that there was a needless amount of rushing up and down the corridors and of slamming of doors. By and by the tumult became uproarious, shouts of laughter and the sound of heavy bodies being flung against walls reached his ears; he emerged then and saw the confusion at the end of the corridor. Allison was suspended two or three feet above the floor, by a rope knotted under his arms; it was the rope that was used for raising trunks up to the loft above. In lowering it from the loft some one had trespassed on forbidden ground. Westby, Collingwood, Dennison, Scarborough, and half a dozen others were gathered, enjoying Allison’s ludicrous struggles. His plight was not painful, only absurd; and Irving himself could not at first keep back a smile. But he came forward and said,—
“Oh, look here, fellows, whoever is responsible for this will have to climb up and release Allison.”
Westby turned with his engaging smile.
“Yes, but, Mr. Upton, who do you suppose is responsible? I don’t see how we can fix the responsibility, do you?”
“I will undertake to fix it,” said Irving. “Westby, suppose you climb that ladder and let Allison down.”
“I don’t think you’re approaching this matter in quite a judicial spirit, Mr. Upton,” said Westby. “Of course no man wants to be arbitrary; he wants to be just. It really seems to me, Mr. Upton, that no action should be taken until the matter has been more thoroughly sifted.”
The other boys, with the exception of Allison, were chuckling at this glib persuasiveness. Westby stood there, in a calmly respectful, even deferential attitude, as if animated only by a desire to serve the truth.
“We will have no argument about it, Westby,” said Irving. “Please climb the ladder at once and release Allison.”
“I beg of you, Mr. Upton,” said Westby in a tone of distress, “don’t, please don’t, confuse argument with impartial inquiry; nothing is more distasteful to me than argument. I merely ask for investigation; I court it in your own interest as well as mine.”
Irving grew rigid. His head was throbbing painfully; the continued snickering all round him and Westby’s increasing confidence and fluency grated on his nerves. He drew out his watch.
“I will give you one minute in which to climb that ladder,” he said.
“Mr. Upton, you wish to be a just man,” pleaded Westby. “Even though you have the great weight of authority—and years”—Westby choked a laugh—“behind you, don’t do an unjust and arbitrary thing. Allison himself wouldn’t have you—would you, Allison?”
The victim grinned uncomfortably.
“Mr. Upton,” urged Westby, “you wouldn’t have me soil these hands?” He displayed his laudably clean, pink fingers. “Of course, if I go up there I shall get my hands all dirty—and equally of course if I had been up there, they would be all dirty now. Surely you believe in the value of circumstantial evidence; therefore, before we fix the responsibility, let us search for the dirty pair of hands.”
“Time is up,” said Irving, closing his watch.
“But what is time when justice trembles in the balance?” argued Westby. “When the innocent is in danger of being punished for the guilty, when—”
“Westby, please climb that ladder at once.”
“So young and so inexorable!” murmured Westby, setting his foot upon the ladder.
Irving’s face was red; the tittering of the audience was making him angry. He held his eyes on Westby, who made a slow, grunting progress up three rungs and then stopped.
“Mr. Upton, Mr. Upton, sir!” Westby’s voice was ingratiating. “Mayn’t Allison sing for us, sir?”
Allison grinned again foolishly and sent a sprawling foot out towards his persecutor; the others laughed.
“Keep on climbing,” said Irving.
Westby resumed his toilsome way, and as he moved he kept murmuring remarks to Allison, to the others, to Irving himself, half audible, rapid, in an aggrieved tone.
“Don’t see why you want to be conspicuous this way, Allison.—Won’t sing—amuse anybody—ornamental, I suppose—good timekeeper though—almost hear you tick. Mr. Upton—setting watch by you now—awfully severe kind of man—”
So mumbling, with the responsive titter still continuing below and Irving standing there stern and red, Westby disappeared into the loft. There was a moment’s silence, then a sudden clicking of a ratchet wheel, and Allison began to rise rapidly towards the ceiling.
“A-ay!” cried Allison in amazement.
The boys burst out in delighted laughter.
“Westby! Westby! Stop that!” Irving’s voice was shrill with anger.
Allison became stationary once more, and Westby displayed an innocent, surprised face at the loft opening.
“If there is any more nonsense in letting Allison down, I shall really have to report you.” Irving’s voice rose tremulously to a high key; he was trying hard to control it.
Westby gazed down with surprise. “Why, I guess I must have turned the crank the wrong way, don’t you suppose I did, Mr. Upton?—Don’t worry, Allison, old man; I’ll rescue you, never fear. I’ll try to lower you gently, so that you won’t get hurt; you’ll call out if you find you’re coming down too fast, won’t you?”
He withdrew his head, and presently the ratchet wheel clicked and slowly, very slowly, Allison began to descend. When his feet were a couple of inches from the floor, the descent stopped.
“All right now?” called Westby from above.
“No!” bawled Allison.
“Ve-ry gently then, ve-ry gently,” replied Westby; and Allison, reaching for the floor with his toes, had at last the satisfaction of feeling it. He wriggled out of the noose and smoothed out his rumpled coat.
“Saved!” exclaimed Westby, peering down from the opening, and then he added sorrowfully, “Saved, and no word of gratitude to his rescuer!”
“Now, boys, don’t stand round here any longer; we’ve had enough nonsense; go to your rooms,” said Irving.
“Mr. Upton, Mr. Upton, Mr. Upton, sir!” clamored Westby, and the boys lingered.
Irving looked up in exasperation. “What is it now?”
“May I come down, please, sir?”
“Thank you, sir.”
Carefully Westby descended the ladder, mumbling all the time sentences of which the lingerers caught fragmentary scraps: “Horrible experience that of Allison’s—dreadful situation to have been in—so fortunate that I was at hand—the man who dares—reckless courage, ready resource—home again!” He dropped to the floor, and raising his hand to his forehead, saluted Irving.
“Come, move on, all you fellows,” said Irving; the others were still hanging about and laughing; “move on, move on! Carroll, you and Westby take that ladder down and put it back where you got it.”
He stayed to see that the order was carried out; then he returned to his room. He felt that though he had conquered in this instance, he had adopted the wrong tone, and that he must offer something else than peevishness and irritation to ward off Westby’s humor; already it gave indications of becoming too audacious. Yet on the whole Irving was pleased because he had at least asserted himself—and had rather enjoyed doing it. And an hour later it seemed to him that he had lost all that he had gained.
Roast beef was the unvarying dish at Sunday dinner; a large and fragrant sirloin was set before the head of each table to be carved. Irving took up the carving knife and fork with some misgivings. Hitherto he had had nothing more difficult to deal with than steaks or chops or croquettes or stews; and carving was an art that he had never learned; confronted by the necessity, he was amazed to find that he had so little idea of how to proceed. The first three slices came off readily enough, though they were somewhat ragged, and Irving was aware that Westby was surveying his operations with a critical interest. The knife seemed to grow more dull, the meat more wobbly, more tough, the bone got more and more in the way; the maid who was passing the vegetables was waiting, all the boys except the three who had been helped first were waiting, coldly critical, anxiously apprehensive; silence at this table had begun to reign.
Irving felt himself blushing and muttered, “This knife’s awfully dull,” as he sawed away. At last he hacked off an unsightly slab and passed it to Westby, whose turn it was and who wrinkled his nose at it in disfavor.
“Please have this knife sharpened,” Irving said to the maid. She put down the potatoes and the corn, and departed with the instrument to the kitchen.
Irving glanced at the other tables; everybody seemed to have been served, everybody was eating; Scarborough, who was in charge of the next table, had entirely demolished his roast.
“I’m sorry to keep you fellows waiting,” Irving said, “but that’s the dullest knife I ever handled.”
He addressed the remark to the totally unprovided side of his table; he turned his head just in time to catch Westby’s humorous mouth and droll droop of an eyelid. The other boys smiled, and Irving’s cheeks grew more hot.
“You’ll excuse me, Mr. Upton, if I don’t wait, won’t you?” said Westby. “Don’t get impatient, fellows.”
The maid returned with the carving knife; Westby paused in his eating to observe. Irving made another unsuccessful effort; the meat quivered and shook and slid under his attack, and the knife slipped and clashed down upon the platter.
“Perhaps if you would stand up to it, sir, you would do better,” suggested Westby, in an insidious voice. “Nobody else does, but if it would be easier—”
“Thank you, but the suggestion is unnecessary,” Irving retorted. He added to the other boys, while he struggled, “It’s the meat, I guess, not the knife, after all—”
“Why, I shouldn’t say it was the meat,” interposed Westby. “The meat’s quite tender.”
Irving glanced at him in silent fury, clamped his lips together, and went on sawing. He finally was able to hand to Carroll a plate on which reposed a mussy-looking heap of beef. Carroll wrinkled his nose over it as Westby had done.
“If I might venture to suggest, sir,” said Westby politely, “you could send it out and have it carved in the kitchen.”
Irving surrendered; he looked up and said to the maid,—
“Please take this out and have it carved outside.”
He felt that he could almost cry from the humiliation, but instead he tried to assume cheerfulness and dignity.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “to have to keep you fellows waiting; we’ll try to arrange things so that it won’t happen again.”
The boys accepted the apology in gloomy silence. At Scarborough’s table their plight was exciting comment; Irving was aware of the curious glances which had been occasioned by the withdrawal of the roast. It seemed to him that he was publicly disgraced; there was a peculiar ignominy in sitting at the head of a table and being unable to perform the simplest duty of host. Worst of all, in the encounter with Westby he had lost ground.
The meat was brought on again, sliced in a manner which could not conceal the unskillfulness of the original attack.
“Stone cold!” exclaimed Blake, the first boy to test it.
Irving’s temper flew up. “Don’t be childish,” he said. “And don’t make any more comments about this matter. It’s of no importance—and cold roast beef is just as good for you as hot.”
“If not a great deal better,” added Westby with an urbanity that set every one snickering.
After dinner Irving was again on duty for two hours in the dormitory, until the time for afternoon chapel. During part of this period the boys were expected to be in their rooms, preparing the Bible lesson which had to be recited after chapel to the rector. Irving made the rounds and saw that each boy was in his proper quarters, then went to his own room. For an hour he enjoyed quiet. Then the bell rang announcing that the study period was at an end. Instantly there was a commotion in the corridors—legitimate enough; but soon it centred in the north wing and grew more and more clamorous, more and more mirthful.
With a sigh Irving went forth to quell it. He determined that whatever happened he would not this time lose his temper; he would try to be persuasive and yet firm.
The noise was in Allison’s room; the unfortunate Allison was again being persecuted. Loud whoops of laughter and the sound of vigorous scuffling, of tumbling chairs and pounding feet, came to Irving’s ears. The door to Allison’s room was wide open; Irving stood and looked upon a pile of bodies heaped on the bed, with struggling arms and legs; even in that moment the foot of the iron bedstead collapsed, and the pile rolled off upon the floor. There were Morrill and Carroll and Westby and Dennison and at the bottom Allison—all looking very much rumpled, very red.
“Oh, come, fellows!” said Irving in what he intended to make an appealing voice. “Less noise, less noise—or I shall really have to report you—I shall really!”
But he did not speak with any confidence; his manner was hesitating, almost deprecating. The boys grinned at him and then sauntered, rather indifferently, out of the room.
There was no more disorder that day. But some hours later, when Irving came up to the dormitory before supper, he heard laughter in the west wing, where Collingwood and Westby and Scarborough had their rooms. Then he heard Westby’s voice, raised in an effeminate, pleading tone: “Less noise, fellows, less noise—or I shall have to report you—I shall really!”
There was more laughter at the mimicry, and Irving heard Collingwood ask,
“Where did you get that, Wes?”
“Oh, from Kiddy—this afternoon.”
“Poor Kiddy! He seemed to be having an awful time at noon over that roast beef.”
“He’s such a dodo—he’s more fun than a goat. I can put him up in the air whenever I want to,” boasted Westby. “He’s the easiest to get rattled I ever saw. I’m going to play horse with him in class to-morrow.”
“How?” asked Collingwood; and Irving basely pricked up his ears.
“Oh, you’ll see.”
Irving closed the door of his room quietly. “We’ll see, will we?” he muttered, pacing back and forth. “Yes, I guess some one will see.”
THE BAITING OF A MASTER
The room in which the Sixth Form assembled for the lesson in Geometry was on the top floor of the Study building; the windows overlooked the pond behind the Gymnasium. The teacher’s desk was on a platform in the corner; a blackboard extended along two walls; and there were steps beneath the blackboard on which the students stood to make their demonstrations.
Irving arrived a minute before the hour and found his class already assembled—a suspicious circumstance. There was, too, he felt, an air of subdued, joyous expectancy. He took his seat and, adjusting his spectacles, peered round the room; his eyesight was very bad, and he had, moreover, like so many bookworms, never trained his faculty of observation.
He read the roll of the class; every boy was there.
“Scarborough, you may go to the blackboard and demonstrate the Fifth Theorem; Dennison, you the Sixth; Westby, you the Eighth. The rest of you will solve at your seats this problem.”
He mounted to the blackboard himself and wrote out the question. While he had his back turned, he heard some whispering; he looked over his shoulder. Westby was lingering in his seat and had obviously been holding communication with his neighbor.
“Westby,”—Irving’s voice was sharp,—“were you trying to get help at the last moment?”
“I was not.” Westby’s answer was prompt.
“Then don’t delay any longer, please; go to the blackboard at once.”
Westby moved to the blackboard on the side of the room—the one at right angles to that on which Irving and Scarborough were at work.
Irving finished his writing, dusted the chalk from his fingers, and returned to his seat. The boys before him were now bent industriously over their tablets; Scarborough, Westby, and Dennison were drawing figures on the blackboard, using the long pointers for rulers and making beautiful circles by means of chalk attached to pieces of string. A glance at Westby showed that youth apparently intent upon solving the problem assigned him and at work upon it intelligently. Irving began to feel serene; he proceeded to correct the algebra exercises of the Fourth Form, which he had received the hour before.
A sudden titter from some one down in front, hastily suppressed and transformed into a cough, caused him to look up. Morrill, with his mouth hidden behind his hand, was glancing off toward Westby, and Irving followed the direction of the glance.
Westby had completed his geometrical figures and was now engaged in labeling them with letters. But instead of employing the usual geometrical symbols A, B, C, and so on, he was skipping about through the alphabet, and Irving immediately perceived that he was not choosing letters at random. Irving observed that the initials of his own name, I, C, U, formed, as it were, the corner-stone of the geometrical edifice.
At that moment Westby coughed—an unnatural cough. And instantly a miracle happened; every single wooden eraser—there were half a dozen of them—leaped from its place on the shelf beneath the blackboard and tumbled clattering down the steps to the floor. At the same instant Westby flung up both arms, tottered on the topmost step, and succeeded in regaining his poise with apparently great difficulty.
The class giggled.
“Mr. Upton, sir! Mr. Upton, sir!” cried Westby excitedly. “Did you feel the earthquake? It was very noticeable on this side of the room. Do you think it’s safe for us to stay indoors, sir? There may be another shock!”
“Westby,” Irving’s voice had a nervous thrill that for the moment quieted the laughter, “did you cause those erasers to be pulled down?”
“Did I cause them to be pulled down? I don’t understand, sir. How could I, sir? Six of them all at once!”
“Bring me one of those erasers, please.”
Westby stooped; there was a sound of snapping string. Then he came forward and presented the eraser.
“You tied string to all these erasers, did you?” Irving examined the fragment that still clung to the object. “And then arranged to have them pulled down?”
“You see how short that string is, sir; nobody could have reached it to pull it. Didn’t you feel the earthquake, sir? Didn’t you see how it almost threw me off my feet? Really, I don’t believe it’s quite safe to stay here—”
“You may be right; I shouldn’t wonder at all if there was a second shock coming to you soon,” said Irving, and the subdued chuckle that went round the class told him he had scored. “You may now demonstrate to the class the Theorem assigned you.”
“Yes, sir.” Westby turned and took up the pointer.
“We have here,” he began, “the two triangles I C U and J A Y—with the angle I C U of the one equal to the angle J A Y of the other.” The class tittered; Westby went on glibly, bending the lath-like pointer between his hands: “Let us now erect the angle K I D, equal to the angle I C U; then the angle K I D will also be equal to the angle J A Y—things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.”
Westby stopped to turn a surprised, questioning look upon the snickering class.
“Yes, that will do for that demonstration,” said Irving. He rose from his seat; his lips were trembling, and the laughter of the class ceased. “You may leave the room—for your insolence—at once!”
He had meant to be dignified and calm, but his anger had rushed to the surface, and his words came in a voice that suggested he was on the verge of tears.
“I beg your pardon, sir, but I don’t think I quite understand,” said Westby suavely.
“You understand well enough. I ask you to leave the room.”
“I’m afraid, Mr. Upton, that my little pleasantries—usually considered harmless—do not commend themselves to you. But you hurt my feelings very much, sir, when you apply such a harsh word as insolence to my whimsical humor—”
“I’ll hold no argument with you,” cried Irving; in his excitement his voice rose thin and thrill. “Leave the room at once.”
Westby laid the pointer and the chalk on the shelf, blew the dust from his fingers, and walked towards his seat. Irving took a step forward; his face was white.
“What do you mean!—What do you mean! I told you to leave the room.”
Westby faced him with composure through which showed a sneer; for the first time the boy was displaying contempt; hitherto his attitude had been jocose and cajoling.
“I was going for my cap,” he said, and his eyes flashed scornfully. Then, regardless of the master’s look, he continued past the row of his classmates, took up his cap, and retraced his steps towards the door. Irving stood watching him, with lips compressed in a stern line; the line thinned even more when he saw Westby bestow on his friends a droll, drooping wink of the left eyelid.
And then, while all the class sat in silence, Westby did an audacious thing—a thing that set every one except Irving off into a joyous titter. He went out of the door doing the sailor’s hornpipe,—right hand on stomach, left hand on back, left hand on stomach, right hand on back, and taking little skips as he alternated the position. And so, skipping merrily, he disappeared down the corridor.
Irving returned to his platform. His hands were trembling, and he felt weak. When he spoke, he hardly knew his own voice. But he struggled to control it, and said,—
“Scarborough, please go to the board and demonstrate your theorem.”
There was no more disorder in class that day; in fact, after Westby’s disappearance the boys were exceptionally well behaved. Slowly Irving recovered his composure, yet the ordeal left him feeling as if he wanted to shut himself up in his room and lie down. He knew that he had lost command of his temper; he regretted the manner in which he had stormed at Westby; but he thought nevertheless that the treatment had been effective and therefore not entirely to be deplored. The boys had thought him soft; he had shown them that he was not; and he determined that from this time forth he would bear down upon them hard. If by showing them amiability and kindliness he had failed to win their respect, he would now compel it by ferocity. He would henceforth show no quarter to any malefactor.
Walking up to his room, he fell in with Barclay, who was also returning from a class.
“What is the extreme penalty one can inflict on a boy who misbehaves?” he asked.
“For a single act?” asked Barclay.
“For one that’s a climax of others—insolence, disobedience, disorder—all heaped into one.”
Irving spoke hotly, and Barclay glanced at him with a sympathetic interest.
“Well,” said Barclay, “three sheets and six marks off in decorum is about the limit. After that happens to a boy two or three times, the rector is likely to take a hand.—If you don’t mind my saying it, though—in my opinion it’s a mistake to start in by being extreme.”
“In ordinary cases, perhaps.” Irving’s tone did not invite questioning, and he did not confide to Barclay what extraordinary case he had under consideration.
When he reached his room, he wrote out on a slip of paper, “Westby, insolence and disorder in class, three sheets,” and laid the paper on his desk. Then he undertook to correct the exercises in geometry which had been the fruit of the Sixth Form’s labors in the last hour; but after going through five or six of them, his mind wandered; it reverted uneasily to the thought of his future relations with those boys. He rose and paced about the room, and hardened his heart. He would be just as strict and stern and severe with them all as he possibly could be. When he had them well trained, he might attempt to win their liking—if that seemed any longer worth having! It did not seem so to him now; all he wanted to know now was that he had awakened in them respect and fear.
Respect and fear—could he have inspired those, by his excitable shriekings in the class room, by his lack of self-control in dormitory and at the dinner table, by his incompetence when confronted with a roast of beef! Each incident that recurred to him was of a kind to bring with it the sting of mortification; his cheeks tingled. He must at least learn how to perform the simple duties expected of a master; he could not afford to continue giving exhibitions of ignorance and incompetence.
Moved by this impulse, he descended to the kitchen—precincts which he had never before entered and in which his appearance created at first some consternation. The cook, however, was obliging; and when he had confessed himself the incapable one who had sent out the mutilated beef to be carved, she was most reassuring in her speech, and taking the cold remains of a similar cut from the ice chest, she gave him an object lesson. She demonstrated to him how he should begin the attack, how he might foil the bone that existed only to baffle, how slice after slice might fall beneath his sure and rapid slashes.
“I see,” said Irving, taking the knife and fork from her and making some imaginary passes. “The fork so—the knife so. And you will always be sure to have a sharp carving knife for me—very sharp?”
The cook smiled and promised, and he extravagantly left her contemplating a dollar bill.
Shortly after he had returned to his room the bell on the Study building rang, announcing the end of the morning session. There was half an hour before luncheon; soon the boys came tramping up the stairs and past Irving’s closed door. Soon also a racketing began in the corridors; Irving suspected an intention to bait him still further; it was probably Westby once again. He waited until the noise became too great to be ignored—shouting and battering and scuffling; then he went forth to quell it.
To his surprise Westby was not engaged in the disturbance—was, in fact, not visible. Collingwood, with his back turned, was in the act of hurling a football to the farther end of the corridor, where Scarborough and Morrill and Dennison were gathered. The forward pass was new in football this year, and although the playing season had not yet begun, Irving had already seen fellows practicing for it, in front of the Study and behind the dormitory. Collingwood, he knew, was captain of the school football eleven, and naturally had all the latest developments of the game, such as the forward pass, very much on his mind. Still that was no excuse for playing football in the corridor.
Morrill had caught the ball, and as Irving approached, undertook to return it. But it ricochetted against the wall and bounced down at Collingwood’s feet. Collingwood seized it and was poising it in his hand for another throw when Irving spoke behind him—sharply, for he was mindful of his resolve to be severe:—
“No more of that, Collingwood.”
The boy turned eagerly and said,—
“Oh, Mr. Upton, I’m just getting on to how to do it. Here, let me show you. You take it this way, along the lacings—the trouble is, my hand’s not quite long enough to get a good grip—and then you take it like this—”
“Yes,” said Irving coldly; he had an idea that Collingwood had adopted Westby’s method and was engaged in chaffing him. “You needn’t show me.”
And he turned abruptly and went into his room, closing the door behind him.
Collingwood stood, looking round over his shoulder after Irving and holding the ball out in the arrested attitude of one about to throw. On his face was an expression of utter amazement, which rapidly gave place to indignation. Collingwood had a temper, and sometimes—even when he was not on the football field—it flared up.
“Of all the chumps!” he muttered; and he turned, and poising the ball again, flung it with all his strength at the master’s door. It went straight to the mark, crashed against the upper panel with a tremendous bang, and rebounded to Collingwood’s feet.
Irving opened the door and came out with a leap.
“Collingwood,” he cried, and his voice was quivering as it had quivered that morning in class, “did you throw that ball?”
“I did,” said Collingwood.
“Very well. I shall report you. I will have no more of this insolence.”
He swung round and shut himself again in his room. The fellows at the other end of the corridor had stood aghast; now they came hurrying up. Collingwood was laughing.
“Kiddy’s getting to be a regular lion,” he said, and when Morrill and Dennison were for expressing their indignation, he only laughed the more.
It was not very pleasant for Irving at luncheon. Westby gave him an amused glance when he came in—more amused than hostile—and Irving preserved his dignity by returning an unflinching look. Westby made no further overtures for a while; the other boys chattered among themselves, about football and tennis, and Irving sat silent at the head of the table. At last, however, Westby turned to him.
“Mr. Upton,” said Westby deferentially, “how would you explain this? There’s a dog, and he must be doing one of two things; either he’s running or he’s not running. If he’s not doing the one, he is doing the other, isn’t he?”
“I suppose so,” said Irving.
“Well, he’s not running. Therefore—he is running. How do you explain that, Mr. Upton?”
Irving smiled feebly; the other boys were thinking it over with puzzled faces.
“That’s an old quibble,” said Irving. “The alternative for running is not running. Therefore when he’s not running—he’s not running.”
“I don’t see that that explains it,” answered Westby. “That’s just making a statement—but it isn’t logic.”
“He’s not running is the negative of he’s running; he’s not not-running is the negative of he’s not running—”
“Then,” said Westby, “how fast must a dog travel that is not not-running to catch a dog that is not exactly running but only perhaps?”
The boys laughed; Irving retorted, “That’s a problem that you might work out on the blackboard sometime.”
Thereupon Westby became silent, and Irving more than half repented of his speech; he knew that in its reference it had been ill-natured.
He noticed later in the day when he went up to the dormitory that the boys tiptoed about the corridors and conversed in whispers; there was an extravagant air of quiet. When they went down to supper, they tiptoed past Irving’s room in single file, saying in unison, “Sh! Sh! Sh!” They all joined in this procession—from Collingwood to Allison. Irving felt that he had taken Allison’s place as the laughing-stock, the butt of the dormitory.
In the evening they came to bid him good-night—not straggling up as they usually did, but in a delegation, expectant and amused. Westby and Collingwood were in the van when Irving opened his door in response to the knock.
“We didn’t know whether you’d shake hands with two such reprobates or not,” said Westby. “We thought it wasn’t quite safe to come up alone—so we’ve brought a bodyguard.”
Irving did not smile, though, all the boys were grinning. He shook hands formally with Collingwood, then with Westby, then with the others, saying good-night to each; as they left him, they tiptoed to their rooms. He thought grimly that, whatever might be the sentiments entertained towards him, he would not long be living in an atmosphere of ridicule.
Irving had charge of the “big study,” as it was called, during the hour immediately after morning chapel. The boys filed in from chapel and seated themselves at their desks; the members of the Sixth Form, who were privileged to study in their rooms and therefore had no desks in the schoolroom, occupied the stalls along the wall under the big clock. Last of all the rector entered and, mounting the platform, read the “reports” for the day—that is, the names of those who had transgressed and the penalties imposed. After the reading, the Sixth Form went upstairs to their Latin class with Mr. Barclay, and the day’s work began.
On the morning following his encounters with Westby and with Collingwood, Irving as usual took charge of the Study. The boys assembled; Irving rang the bell, reducing them to quiet; Dr. Davenport came in, mounted the platform, and took up the report book—in which Irving had just finished transcribing his entries.
Dr. Davenport began reading in his clear, emphatic voice, “Out of bounds, Mason, Sterrett, Coyle, one sheet; late to study, Hart, McQuiston, Durfee, Stratton, Kane, half a sheet; tardy to breakfast—” and so on. None of the offenses were very serious; and the rector read them out rapidly. But at last he paused a moment; and then, looking up from the book, he said, with grave distinctness, “Disorderly in class and insolent, Westby, three sheets; disorderly in dormitory and insolent, Collingwood, three sheets.”
He closed the book; a stir, a thrill of interest, ran round the room. For a Sixth Former to be charged with such offenses and condemned to such punishment was rare: for Collingwood, who was in a sense the leader of the school, to be so charged and punished was unprecedented.
Collingwood, sitting directly under the clock, and facing so many curious questioning eyes, turned red; Westby, standing by the door, looked at him and smiled. At the same time, Dr. Davenport, closing the report-book, leaned towards Irving and said quietly in his ear,—
“Mr. Upton, I should like to see you about those last two reports—immediately after this study hour.”
Irving reddened; the rector’s manner was not approving.
Dr. Davenport descended from the platform and walked slowly down the aisle. As he approached, he looked straight at Westby; and Westby returned the look steadily—as if he was ashamed of nothing.
The rector passed through the doorway; the Sixth Form followed; the day’s work began.
MASTER TURNS PUPIL
The rector received Irving with a smile. “Well,” he said, “I think you must be a believer in the maxim, ‘Hit hard and hit first.’ Would you mind telling me what was the trouble?”
“It wasn’t so much any one thing,” replied Irving. “It was a culmination of little things.—Oh, I suppose I started in wrong with the fellows somehow.”
He was silent for a moment, in dejection.
“A good many do that,” said Dr. Davenport. “There would be small progress in the world if there never was any rectifying of false starts.”
“I can hardly help it if I look young,” said Irving. “That’s one of my troubles. I suppose I ought to avoid acting young. I haven’t, altogether. They call me Kiddy.”
“We get hardened to nicknames,” observed the rector. “But often they’re affectionate. At least I like to cherish that delusion with regard to mine; my legs have the same curve as Napoleon’s, and I have been known as ‘Old Hoopo’ for years.”
“But they don’t call you that to your face.”
“No, not exactly. Have they been calling you ‘Kiddy’ to your face?”
“It amounts to that.” Irving narrated the remarks that he had overheard in dormitory, and then described Westby’s performance at the blackboard.
“That certainly deserved rebuke,” agreed the rector. “Though I think Westby was attempting to be facetious rather than insolent; I have never seen anything to indicate that he was a malicious boy.—What was it that Louis Collingwood did?”
Irving recited the offense.
“Weren’t you a little hasty in assuming that he was trying to tease you?” asked the rector. “When he persisted in wanting to show you how the forward pass is made? I think it’s quite likely he was sincere; he’s so enthusiastic over football that it doesn’t occur to him that others may not share his interest. I don’t think Collingwood was trying to be ‘fresh.’ Of course, he shouldn’t have lost his temper and banged the ball at your door—but I think that hardly showed malice.”
“It seemed to me it was insolent—and disorderly. I felt the fellows all thought they could do anything with me and I would be afraid to report them. And so I thought I’d show them I wasn’t afraid.”
“At the same time, three sheets is the heaviest punishment, short of actual suspension, that we inflict. It seems hardly a penalty for heedless or misguided jocularity.”
“I think perhaps I was hard on Collingwood,” admitted Irving.
“If he comes to you about it—maybe you’ll feel disposed to modify the punishment. And possibly the same with Westby.”
“I don’t feel sure that I’ve been too hard on Westby.”
The rector smiled; he was not displeased at this trace of stubbornness.
“Well, I won’t advise you any further about that. Use your own judgment. It takes time for a young man to get his bearings in a place like this.—If you don’t mind my saying it,” added the rector mildly, “couldn’t you be a little more objective in your interests?”
“You mean,” said Irving, “less—less self-centred?”
“That’s it.” The rector smiled.
“I’ll try,” said Irving humbly.
“All right; good luck.” The rector shook hands with him and turned to his desk.
There was no disturbance in the Mathematics class that day. Irving hoped that after the hour Westby and Collingwood might approach him to discuss the justice of the reports which he had given them, and so offer him an opportunity of lightening the punishment. But in this he was disappointed. Nor did they come to him in the noon recess—the usual time for boys who felt themselves wronged to seek out the masters who had wronged them.
Irving debated with himself the advisability of going to the two boys and voluntarily remitting part of their task. But he decided against this; to make the advances and the concession both would be to concede too much.
At luncheon there was an unpleasant moment. No sooner had the boys sat down than Blake, a Fifth Former, called across the table to Westby,—
“Say, Westby, who was it that gave you three sheets?”
Westby scowled and replied,—
“Oh, ask him.”
Irving reddened, aware of the glancing, curious gaze of every boy at the table. There was an interesting silence, relieved at last by the appearance of the boy with the mail. Among the letters, Irving found one from Lawrence; he opened it with a sense that it afforded him a momentary refuge. The unintended irony of the first words drew a bitter smile to his lips.
“You are certainly a star teacher,” Lawrence wrote, “and I know now what a success you must be making with your new job. I have just learned that I passed all the examinations—which is more than you or I ever dreamed I could do—so I am now a freshman at Harvard without conditions. And it’s all due to you; I don’t believe there’s another man on earth that could have got me through with such a record and in so short a time.”
Irving forgot the irony, forgot Westby and Collingwood and the amused, whispering boys. Happiness had suddenly flashed down and caught him up and borne him away to his brother. Lawrence’s whole letter was so gay, so exultant, so grateful that Irving, when he finished it, turned back again to the first page. When at last he raised his eyes from it, they dwelt unseeingly upon the boys before him; they held his brother’s image, his brother’s smile. And from the vision he knew that there at least he had justified himself, whatever might be his failure now; and if he had succeeded once, he could succeed again.
Irving became aware that Westby was treating him with cheerful indifference—ignoring him. He did not care; the letter had put into him new courage. And pretty soon there woke in him along with this courage a gentler spirit; it was all very well for Westby, a boy and therefore under discipline, to exhibit a stiff and haughty pride; but it was hardly admirable that a master should maintain that attitude. The punishment to which he had sentenced Westby and Collingwood was, it appeared, too harsh; if they were so proud that they would not appeal to him to modify it, he would make a sacrifice in the interest of justice.
So after luncheon he followed Westby and spoke to him outside of the dining-room.
“Westby,” he said, “do you think that considering the circumstances three sheets is excessive?”
Westby looked surprised; then he shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m not asking any favors,” he replied.
Irving laughed. “No,” he said, “I see you’re not. But I’m afraid I must deny you the pleasure of martyrdom. I’ll ask you to take a note to Mr. Elwood—he’s in charge of the Study, isn’t he? I’ll tell him that you’re to write a sheet and a half instead of three sheets.”
He drew a note-book from his pocket and tore out one of the pages. Westby looked at him curiously—as if in an effort to determine just how poor-spirited this sudden surrender was. Irving spoke again before writing.
“By the way, will you please ask Collingwood to come here?”
When Westby returned with Collingwood, Irving had the note written and handed it to him; there was no excuse for Westby to linger. He went over and waited by the door, while Irving said,—
“Collingwood, why didn’t you come up and ask me to reduce your report? Didn’t you think it was unfair?”
“Yes,” Collingwood answered promptly.
“Well, then—why didn’t you come to me and say so?”
Collingwood thought a moment.
“Well,” he said, “you had such fun in soaking me that I wasn’t going to give you the additional satisfaction of seeing me cry baby.”
“I’ll learn something about boys sometime—if you fellows will keep on educating me,” observed Irving. “I think your performance of yesterday deserves about a sheet; we’ll make it that.”
He scribbled a note and handed it to the boy.
“Thank you, Mr. Upton.” Collingwood tucked the note into his pocket with a friendly smile, and then joined Westby.
“Knock you down to half a sheet?” asked Westby, as they departed in the direction of the Study, where they were to perform their tasks.
“No; a sheet.”
“Mine’s one and a half now. What got into him?”
“He’s not without sense,” said Collingwood.
“Ho!” Westby was derisive. “He’s soft. He got scared. He knew he’d gone too far—and he was afraid to stand by his guns.”
“I don’t think so. I think he’s just trying to do the right thing.”
It was unfortunate for Irving that later in the afternoon Carter of the Fifth Form—who played in the banjo club with Westby—was passing the Study building just as Westby was coming out from his confinement.
“Hello, Wes!” said Carter. “Thought you were in for three sheets; how do you happen to be at large so soon?”
“Kiddy made it one and a half—without my asking him,” said Westby.
“And Collingwood the same?”
“He made his only a sheet.”
“That’s it,” said Carter shrewdly. “I was waiting to see the rector this morning; the door was open, and he had Kiddy in there with him. I guess he was lecturing him on those reports; I guess he told him he’d have to take off a couple of sheets.”
“I shouldn’t wonder,” said Westby. “I don’t believe old Hoopo would have interfered much on my account,—but I guess he couldn’t stand for Lou Collingwood getting three sheets. And Kiddy, the fox, tried to make us think he was being magnanimous!”
Westby chuckled over his humorous discovery, and as soon as possible imparted it to Collingwood.
“Oh, well, what if the rector did make him do it?” said Collingwood. “The way he did it shows he’s all right—”
“Trying to get the credit with us for being just and generous!” observed Westby. “Oh, I don’t mind; of course it’s only Kiddy.”
And it was Westby’s view of the matter which most of the boys heard and credited. So the improvement in the general attitude for which Irving had hoped was hardly to be noticed. He had some gratification the next Sunday when the roast beef was brought on and he carved it with creditable ease and dispatch; the astonishment of the whole table, and especially of Westby and Carroll, was almost as good as applause. He could not resist saying, in a casual way, “The knife seems to be sharp this Sunday.” And he felt that for once Westby was nonplussed.
But the days passed, and Irving felt that he was not getting any nearer to the boys. At his table the talk went on before him, mainly about athletics, about college life, about Europe and automobiles,—all topics from which he seemed strangely remote. It needed only the talk of these experienced youths to make him realize that he had gone through college without ever touching “college life,”—its sports, its social diversions, its adventures. It had been for him a life in a library, in classrooms, in his own one shabby little room,—a cloistered life; in the hard work of it and the successful winning of his way he had been generally contented and happy. But he could not talk to these boys about “college life” as it appeared to them; and they very soon, perhaps by common consent, eliminated him from the conversation. Nor was he able to cope with Westby in the swift, glancing monologues which flowed on and on sometimes, to the vast amusement of the audience. Often to Irving these seemed not very funny, and he did not know which was the more trying—to sit grave and unconcerned in the midst of so much mirth or to keep his mouth stretched in an insincere, wooden smile. Whichever he did, he felt that Westby always was taking notes, to ridicule him afterwards to the other boys.
One habit which Westby had was that of bringing a newspaper to supper and taking the table with him in an excursion over headlines and advertising columns. His mumbling manner, his expertness in bringing out distinctly a ridiculous or incongruous sentence, and his skill in selecting such sentences at a glance always drew attention and applause; he had the comedian’s technique.
The boys at the neighboring tables, hearing so much laughter and seeing that Westby was provoking it, would stop eating and twist round and tilt back their chairs and strain their ears eagerly for some fragment of the fun. At last at the head table Mr. Randolph took cognizance of this daily boisterousness, spoke to Irving about it, and asked him to curb it. Irving thereupon suggested to Westby that he refrain from reading his newspaper at table.
“But all the fellows depend on me to keep them au courant, as it were.” Westby was fond of dropping into French in his arguments with Irving.
“You will have to choose some other time for it,” Irving answered. “I understand that there is a rule against reading newspapers at table, and I think it must be observed.”
“Oh, very well,—de bon coeur,” said Westby.
The next day at supper he appeared without his newspaper. But in the course of the meal he drew from his pocket some newspaper clippings which he had pasted together and which he began to read in his usual manner. Soon the boys of the table were laughing, soon the boys of the adjacent tables were twisting round and trying to share in the amusement. Westby read in his rapid consecutive way,—
“’Does no good unless taken as directed—pain in the back, loins, or region of the kidneys—danger signal nature hangs out—um—um—um. Mother attacks son with razor, taking tip of left ear. Catcher Dan McQuilligan signs with the Red Sox—The Woman Beautiful—Bright Eyes: Every woman is entitled to a clear, brilliant complexion—um—if she is not so blessed, it is usually her own fault—um—Candidate for pulchritude: reliable beauty shop—do not clip the eyelashes—um.—Domestic science column—Baked quail: pick, draw, and wipe the bird outside and inside; use a wet cloth.—No, Hortense, it is not necessary to offer a young man refreshments during an evening call.’”
Westby was going on and on; he had a hilarious audience now of three tables. From the platform at the end of the dining-room Mr. Randolph looked down and shook his head—shook it emphatically; and Irving, seeing it, understood the signal.
“Westby,” said Irving. “Westby!” He had to raise his voice.
“Yes, sir?” Westby looked up innocently.
“I will have to ask you to discontinue your reading.”
“But this is not a newspaper.”
“It’s part of one.”
“Yes, sir, but the rule is against bringing newspapers to table—not against bringing newspaper clippings to table.”
“The rule’s been changed,” said Irving. “It now includes clippings.”
“You see how it is, fellows.” Westby turned to the others. “Persecuted—always persecuted. If I’m within the rules—they change the rules to soak me. Well,”—he folded up his clippings and put them in his pocket,—“the class in current topics is dismissed. But instead Mr. Upton has very kindly consented to entertain us this evening—some of his inimitable chit-chat—”
“I wouldn’t always try to be facetious, Westby,” said Irving.
“I beg your pardon, sir,” replied Westby urbanely. “If I have wounded your sensibilities—I would not do that—never—jamais—pas du tout.”
Irving said nothing; it seemed to him that Westby always had the last word; it seemed to him as if Westby was always skillfully tripping him up, executing a derisive flourish over his prostrate form, and then prancing away to the cheers of the populace.
But there were no more violent encounters, such as had taken place in the class-room; Westby never quite crossed the line again; and Irving controlled his temper on threatening occasions. These occurred in dormitory less often; the fine weather and the fall sports—football and tennis and track athletics—kept the boys out-doors. On rainy afternoons there was apt to be some noise and disorder—usually there was what was termed an “Allison hunt,” which took various forms, but which, whether resulting in the dismemberment of the boy’s room or the pursuit and battery of him with pillows along the corridors, invariably required Irving’s interference to quell it. This task of interference, though it was one that he came to perform more and more capably, never grew less distasteful or less humiliating; he saw always the row of faces wearing what he construed as an impudent grin. What seemed to him curious was the fact that Allison after a fashion enjoyed—at least did not resent—the outrages of which he was the subject; after them he would be found sitting amicably with his tormentors, drinking their chocolate and eating their crackers and jam. This was so different from his own attitude after he had been teased that Irving could not understand it. After studying the case, he concluded that the “Allison hunts” were not prompted by any hatred of the subject, but by the fact merely that he was big, clumsy, good-natured, slow-witted—easy to make game of—and especially by the fact that when aroused he showed a certain joyous rage in his own defense. But Irving saw no way of learning a lesson from Allison.
As the days went on, the sense of his isolation in the School became more oppressive. He had thought that if only the fellows would let him alone, he would be contented; he found that was not so. They let him alone now entirely; he envied those masters who were popular—whom boys liked to visit on Sunday evenings, who were consulted about contributions to the Mirror, the school paper, who were invited to meetings of the Stylus, the literary society, who coached the football elevens or went into the Gymnasium and did “stunts” with the boys on the flying rings.
One day when he was walking down to the athletic field with Mr. Barclay, he said something that hinted his wistful and unhappy state of mind. Barclay had suspected it and had been waiting for such an opportunity.
“Why don’t you make some interest for yourself which would put you on a footing with the boys—outside of the class-room and the dormitory?” he asked.
“I wish I could. But how?”
“You ought to be able to work up an interest of some sort,” said Barclay vaguely.
“I don’t know anything about athletics; I’m not musical, I don’t seem to be able to be entertaining and talk to the boys. I guess I’m just a grind. I shall never be of much use as a teacher; it’s bad enough to feel that you’re not up to your job. It’s worse when it makes you feel that you’re even less up to the job that you hoped to prepare for.”
“I meant to study law; I’d like to be a lawyer. But what’s the use? If I can’t learn to handle boys, how can I ever hope to handle men?—and that’s what a lawyer has to do, I suppose.”
“Look here,” said Barclay. “You’re still young; if you’ve learned what’s the matter with you—and you seem to have—you’ve learned more than most fellows of your age. It’s less than a month that you’ve been here, and you’ve never had any experience before in dealing with boys. Why should you expect to know it all at once?”
“I suppose there’s something in that. But I feel that I haven’t it in me ever to get on with them.”
“You’re doing better now than you did at first; they don’t look on you entirely as a joke now, do they?”
“Perhaps not.—Oh,” Irving broke out, “I know what the trouble is—I want to be liked—and I suppose I’m not the likeable kind.”
Barclay did not at once dispute this statement, and Irving was beginning to feel hurt.
“The point is,” said Barclay at last, “that to be liked by boys you’ve got to like them. If you hold off from them and distrust them and try to wrap yourself up in a cloak of dignity or mystery, they won’t like you because they won’t know you. If you show an interest in them and their interests, you can be as stern with them as justice demands, and they won’t lay it up against you. But if you don’t show an interest—why, you can’t expect them to have an interest in you.”
They turned a bend in the road; the athletic field lay spread out before them. In different parts of it half a dozen football elevens were engaged in practice; on the tennis courts near the athletic house boys in white trousers and sweaters were playing; on the track encircling the football field other boys more lightly clad were sprinting or jogging round in practice for long-distance runs; a few sauntered about as spectators, with hands in their overcoat pockets.
“There,” said Barclay, indicating a group of these idle observers, “you can at least do that.”
“But what’s the use?”
“Make yourself a critic; pick out eight or ten fellows to watch especially. In football or tennis or running. It doesn’t much matter. If they find you’re taking an intelligent interest in what they’re doing, they’ll be pleased. Westby, for instance, is running; he’s entered for the hundred yards in the fall games,—likely to win it, too. Westby’s your greatest trial, isn’t he? Then why don’t you make a point of watching him?—Not too obviously, of course. Come round with me; I’m coaching some of the runners for the next half-hour, and then Collingwood wants me to give his ends a little instruction.”
“Dear me! If I’d only been an athlete instead of a student in college!” sighed Irving whimsically.
“You don’t need to be much of an athlete to coach; I never was so very much,” confided Barclay. “But there are things you can learn by looking on.” They had reached the edge of the track; Barclay clapped his hands. “No, no, Roberts!” The boy who was practising the start for a sprint looked up. “You mustn’t reel all over the track that way when you start; you’d make a foul. Keep your elbows in, and run straight.”
Irving followed Barclay round and tried to grasp the significance of his comments. Dennison came by at a trot.
“Longer stride, Dennison! Your running’s choppy! Lengthen out, lengthen out! That’s better.—I have it!”
Barclay turned suddenly to Irving.
“The thing for you to do. We’ll make you an official at the track games next week. That will give you a standing at once—show everybody that you are really a keen follower of sport—or want to be.”
“But what can I do? I suppose an official has to do something.”
“You can be starter. That will put you right in touch with the fellows that are entered.”
“Would I have a revolver? I’ve never fired a gun off in my life.”
“Then it’s time you did. Of course you’ll have a revolver. And you’ll be the noisiest, most important man on the field. That’s what you need to make yourself; wake the fellows up to what you really are!—Now I must be off to my football men; you’d better hang round here and pick up what you can about running. And remember—you’re to act as starter.”
“If you’ll see me through.”
“I’ll see you through.”
Barclay waved his hand and swung off across the field.
THE PENALTY FOR A FOUL
How it was managed Irving did not know, but on the morning of the day when the fall handicap track games were held Scarborough lingered after the Sixth Form Geometry class. Scarborough was president of the Athletic Association.
“We want somebody to act as starter for the races this afternoon, Mr. Upton,” said Scarborough. “I wondered if you would help us out.”
“I should be delighted,” said Irving. “I’ve not had much experience—”
“Oh, it’s easy enough; Mr. Barclay, I guess, can tell you all that has to be done. Thank you very much.”
It was quite as if Irving was the one who was conferring the favor; he liked Scarborough for the way in which the boy had made the suggestion. He always had liked him, for Scarborough had never given any trouble; he seemed more mature than most of the boys, more mature even than Louis Collingwood. He was not so popular, because he maintained a certain dignity and reserve; even Westby seemed to stand somewhat in awe of Scarborough. He was, as Irving understood, the best oarsman in the school, captain of the school crew, besides being the crack shot-putter and hammer-thrower; if he and Collingwood had together chosen to throw their influence against a new master, life would indeed have been hard. But Scarborough’s attitude had been one of entire indifference; he would stand by and smile sometimes when Westby was engaged in chaffing Irving, and then, as if tired of it, he would turn his back and walk away.
Irving visited Barclay at his house during the noon recess, borrowed his revolver, and received the last simple instructions.
“Make sure always that they’re all properly ‘set’ before you fire. If there’s any fouling at the start, you can call them back and penalize the fellow that fouled—a yard to five yards, according to your discretion. But there’s not likely to be any fouling; in most of the events the fellows are pretty well separated by their handicaps.”
“I’ll be careful,” said Irving. He inspected the revolver. “It’s all loaded?”
“Yes—and there are some blank cartridges. Now, you’re all equipped. If any questions come up—I’ll be down at the field; I’m to be one of the judges and you can call on me.”
At luncheon Irving entered into the talk about the sports to come, without giving any intimation as to the part which he was to play.
“They’ve given Heath only thirty yards over Lou Collingwood,” complained Westby.
“I thought Lou wasn’t going to run, because of football; he hasn’t been practising,” said Carroll.
“I know, but the Pythians have got hold of him, and Dennison’s persuaded him it’s his duty to run. And I guess he’s good enough without practice to win from scratch—giving that handicap!”
“Is Dennison the captain of the Pythian track team?” asked Irving.
“And who’s captain of yours—the Corinthians?”
“Morrill’s going awfully fast in the quarter now,” said Blake. “I timed him yesterday.”
“They’ve handicapped him pretty hard. And he’s apt to be just a shade late in starting—just as Dave Pratt is apt to be just a shade previous,” said Westby. “It ought to be a close race between those two.”
“How much does Pratt get over Morrill?”
“Five yards. And if he steals another yard on the start—”
“Dave wouldn’t steal it,” exclaimed Blake indignantly. “You Corinthians would accuse a man of anything!”
“Oh, I don’t mean that he’d do it intentionally,” replied Westby. “But he’s so overanxious and eager always—and he’s apt to get away without realizing—without the starter realizing.—I wonder who’s going to be starter, by the way?”
Nobody knew; Irving did not enlighten them.
Westby bethought him to ask the same question of Scarborough half an hour later, when they were dressing in the athletic house.
“Mr. Upton has consented to serve,” said Scarborough gravely.
Westby thumped himself down on a bench, dangling one spiked running shoe by the string.
“The same,” said Scarborough.
Westby said nothing more; he stooped and put on his shoe, and then he rose and came over to Scarborough, who was untangling a knot. He passed his hand over Scarborough’s head and remarked wonderingly, “Feels perfectly normal—strange—strange!”
Morrill came in from outside, clapping his hands. “Corinthians out for the mile—Heath—Price—Bolton—Edwards—all ready?”
The four named answered by clumping on their spikes to the door.
A moment later came the Pythian call from Dennison; Collingwood and Morse responded. The first event of the day was about to begin. Westby leisurely brushed his hair, which had been disarranged in the process of undressing; he was like a cat in respect of his hair and could not endure to have it rumpled. When it was parted and plastered down to his satisfaction, he slipped a dressing gown on over his running clothes and went out of doors.
The fall track meet was not of the same importance as that in the spring, which was a scratch event. But there were cups for prizes, and there was always much rivalry between the two athletic clubs, the Corinthians and Pythians, as to which could show the most winners. So for that day the football players rested from their practice; many of them in fact were entered in the sports—though, like Collingwood, without any special preparation. The school turned out to look on and cheer; when Westby left the athletic house, he saw the boys lined up on the farther side of the track. The field was reserved for contestants and officials; already many figures in trailing dressing gowns were wandering over it, and off at one side three or four were having a preliminary practice in putting the shot.
But most of those who were privileged to be on the field stood at the farther side, where the start for the mile run was about to take place. Westby saw Randolph and Irving kneeling by the track, measuring off the handicap distances with a tape line; Barclay walked along it, and summoned the different contestants to their places. By the time that Westby had crossed the field, the six runners were at their stations; there was an interval of a hundred and forty yards between Collingwood, at scratch, and young Price of the Fourth Form.
Westby came up and stood near Irving, and fixed him with a whimsical smile.
“Quite a new departure for you, isn’t it, Mr. Upton?” he said.
“I thought I’d come down and see if you can run as fast as you can talk, Westby.” Irving drew out the revolver, somewhat ostentatiously.
“I hope you won’t shoot any one with that; it looks to me as if you ought to be careful how you handle it, sir.”
“Thank you for the advice, Westby.” Irving turned from the humorist, and raised his voice. “All ready for the mile now! On your marks! Set!”
He held the pistol aloft and fired, and the six runners trotted away. There is nothing very exciting about the start of a mile run, and Irving felt that the intensity with which he had given the commands had been rather absurd. It was annoying to think that Westby had been standing by and finding perhaps in his nervousness a delectable subject for mockery and derision.
Irving walked down the track towards the finish line. He found Barclay there holding the watch.
“You seem to be discharging your arduous duties successfully,” said Barclay.
“Oh, so far.” Irving looked up the track; the foremost runners were rounding the curve at the end of their first lap. He had a moment’s longing to be one of them, stretching his legs like them, trying out his strength and speed on the smooth cinder track against others as eager as himself. He had never done anything of that kind; hardly until now had he ever felt the desire. Why it should come upon him now so poignantly he did not know; but on this warm October afternoon, when the air and the sunshine were as soft as in early September, he wished that he might be a boy again and do the things which as a boy he had never done. To be still young and looking on at the sports and the strife of youth, sports and strife in which he had never borne a part—there was something humiliating and ignoble in the thought. If he could only be for the moment the little Fourth Former there, Price—now flying on in the lead yet casting many fearful backward glances!—Poor child, even Irving’s inexperienced eyes told him that he could never keep that pace.
“Go it, kid!” cried three or four older boys good-naturedly, as Price panted by; and he threw back his head and came down more springily upon his toes, trying in response to the cheer to display his best form.
After him came Bolton and Edwards, side by side; and Collingwood, who started at scratch, had moved up a little on Morse and Heath. Heath was considered the strongest runner in the event for the Corinthians, and they urged him on with cries of “Heath! Heath!” as he made the turn. “You’ve got ’em, Lou!” shouted a group of Pythians the next moment as Collingwood passed. It was early in the race for any great demonstration of excitement.
It was Price whom Irving watched with most sympathy. When he got round on the farther side of the field, his pace had slackened perceptibly; Bolton and Edwards passed him and kept on widening the distance; Morse and Heath passed him at the next turn; and when he came down to the turn in front of the crowd, running heavily, Collingwood overhauled and passed him. It was rather an unfeeling thing for Collingwood to do, right there in front of the crowd, but he was driven to it by force of circumstances; the four other runners were holding on in a way he did not like. The cries of encouragement to him and to Heath were more urgent this time; Bolton and Edwards and Morse had their supporters too.
Westby ran along the field beside Price, and Irving felt a moment’s indignation; was Westby taunting the plucky and exhausted small boy? And then Irving saw that he was not, and at the same instant Barclay turned to him and said,—
“Price is Westby’s young cousin.”
Irving stood near enough to hear Westby say, “Good work, Tom; you set the pace just right; it’ll kill Collingwood. Now drop out.”
Price shook his head and kept on; Westby trotted beside him, saying anxiously, “There’s no use in your wearing yourself all out.” But Price continued at his determined, pounding trot.
“He’s a plucky kid,” said Barclay.
“Rather nice of Westby to take such an interest,” said Irving.
Barclay nodded. From that point on it became a close and interesting race, yet every now and then Irving’s eyes strayed to the small figure toiling farther and farther to the rear—but always toiling. Westby stood on the edge of the green oval, not far away, and when on the third lap Heath came by in the lead, ran with him a few moments and shouted advice and encouragement in his ear; he had to shout, for all the Corinthians were shouting for Heath now, and the Pythians were shouting just as loudly for Collingwood, who, pocketed by the two other Corinthians, Bolton and Edwards, was running fifteen yards behind. Morse, the only Pythian to support Collingwood, was hopelessly out of it.
Westby left Heath and turned his eyes backward. His cousin came to the turn, white-faced, and mouth hanging open; the crowd clapped the boy. “Quit it, Tom!” cried Westby. “Quit it; there’s no sense—” but Price went pounding on. Westby stood looking after him with a worried frown, and then because there was a sudden shout, he turned to look at the others.
There, on the farther side of the field, Collingwood had at last extricated himself from the pocket; he was running abreast of Bolton; Edwards had fallen behind. Heath was spurting; Collingwood passed Bolton, but in doing so did not lessen Heath’s lead—a lead of fully fifteen yards. So they came to the last turn, to the long straight-away home-stretch; and the crowd clustered by the finish broke and ran up alongside the track to meet them. Every one was yelling wildly—one name or another—“Corinthian!” “Pythian!” “Heath!” “Collingwood!”
Barclay ran across the track with one end of the tape,—the finish line; Mr. Randolph held the other. “Collingwood! Collingwood!” rose the shout; Irving, standing on tiptoe, saw that Collingwood was gaining, saw that at last he and Heath were running side by side; they held together while the crowd ran with them shouting. Irving pressed closer to the track; Westby in his dressing gown was jumping up and down beside him, waving his arms; Irving had to crane his neck and peer, in order to see beyond those loose flapping sleeves. He saw the light-haired Collingwood and the black-haired Heath, coming down with their heads back and their teeth bared and clenched; they were only fifteen yards away. And then Collingwood leaped ahead; it was as if he had unloosed some latent and unconquerable spring, which hurled him in a final burst of speed across the tape and into half a dozen welcoming arms. Heath stumbled after him, even more in need of such friendly services; but both of them revived very quickly when Mr. Barclay, rushing into the crowd with the watch, cried, “Within eight seconds of the record! Both of you fellows will break it next June.”
The other runners came gasping in—and Price was still toiling away in the rear. He had been half a lap behind; he came now into the home-stretch; the crowd began to laugh, and then more kindly, as he drew nearer, to applaud. They clapped and called, “Good work, Price!” Westby met him about fifty yards from the finish and ran with him, saying, “You’ve got to stick it out now, Tom; you can’t drop out now; you’re all right, old boy—lots of steam in your boiler—you’ll break a record yet.” Irving caught some of the speeches. And so Westby was there when Price crossed the line and collapsed in a heap on the track.
It was not for long; they brought him to with water, and Westby knelt by him fanning his face with the skirt of his dressing gown. Barclay picked the boy up. “Oh, I’m all right, sir,” said Price, and he insisted on being allowed to walk to the athletic house alone,—which he did rather shakily.
Westby flirted the cinders from the skirt of his dressing gown. “Blamed little fool,” he remarked to Carroll and to Allison, who stood by. “Wouldn’t his mother give me the dickens, though, for letting him do that!” But Irving, who heard, knew there was a ring of pride in Westby’s voice—as if Westby felt that his cousin was a credit to the family. And Irving thought he was.
The sports went on; not many of the runs were as exciting as that with which the afternoon had opened. Irving passed back and forth across the field, helped measure distances for the handicaps, and tried to be useful. His interest had certainly been awakened. Twice in college he had sat on the “bleachers” and viewed indifferently the track contests between Yale and Harvard; he had had a patriotic desire to see his own college win, but he had been indifferent to the performance of the individuals. They had not been individuals to him—merely strange figures performing in an arena. But here, where he knew the boys and walked about among them, and saw the different manifestations of nervousness and excitement, and watched the muscles in their slim legs and arms, he became himself eager and sympathetic. He stood by when Scarborough went on putting the shot after beating all the other competitors—went on putting it in an attempt to break the School record. Unconsciously Irving pressed forward to see him as he prepared for the third and last try; unconsciously he stood with lips parted and eyes shining, fascinated by the huge muscles that rose in Scarborough’s brown arm as he poised the weight at his shoulder and heaved it tentatively. And when it was announced that the effort had fallen short by only a few inches, Irving’s sigh of disappointment went up with that of the boys.
At intervals the races were run off—the two-twenty, the quarter-mile, the half-mile, the high hurdles, the low hurdles. Irving started them all without any mishap. The last one, the low hurdles for two hundred and twenty yards, was exciting; the runners were all well matched and the handicaps were small. And so, after firing the revolver, Irving started and ran across the field as hard as he could, to be at the finish; he arrived in time, and stood, still holding the revolver in his hand, while Morrill and Flack and Mason raced side by side to the tape. They finished in that order, not more than a yard apart; and Irving rammed his revolver into his pocket and clapped his hands and cheered with the Corinthians.
The Pythians were now two points ahead, and there remained only one event, the hundred yards. First place counted five points and second place two; in these games third place did not count. So if a Corinthian should win the hundred yards, the Corinthians would be victorious in the meet by one point.
There were eight entries in the hundred yards—a large number to run without interfering with one another. But the track was wide, and two of the boys had handicaps of ten yards, one had five yards, and one had three. So they were spread out pretty well at the start, and consequently the danger of interference was minimized.
The runners threw off their dressing gowns and took their places. Drake, Flack, Westby, and Mason lined up at scratch,—Westby having drawn the inside place and being flanked by the two Pythians. There was a moment’s pawing of the cinders, and settling down firmly on the spikes.
“Ready, everybody!” cried Irving. He drew the revolver from his pocket and held it aloft. He was as excited as any of the runners; there was the nervous thrill in his voice. “On your marks!” They put their hands to the ground; he ran his eyes along them to see that all were placed. “Set!” There was the instant stiffening of muscles. Then from the revolver came a click. Irving had emptied the six chambers in starting the other races, and had forgotten to reload.
“Just a moment, fellows; ease off!” he called, and they all straightened up and faced towards him questioningly. “Just till I slip in a cartridge,” Irving explained with embarrassment.
Westby turned on him a delighted grin, and said,—
“Can I be of any assistance, Mr. Upton?”
“No, thank you,” said Irving, and having slipped in one cartridge, he began filling the other chambers of the revolver.
“It takes only one shot to start,” observed Westby.
“Yes,” said Irving. “If I fire a second, it will be to call you back because of a false start.—Now then,—all ready once more. On your marks!” They crouched. “Set!” He fired.
Somehow in the start Westby’s foot slipped, and in trying to get clear he lunged against Flack. Irving saw it and instantly fired a second shot, and shouted, “Come back, come back!” The runners heeded the signal and the shout, but as they tiptoed up the track, they looked irritated.
“Westby, you fouled Flack.” Irving spoke with some asperity. “I shall have to set you back a yard.”
“It was an accident,” Westby replied warmly. “My foot slipped. I couldn’t help myself.”
“But it was a foul,” declared Irving, “and I shall have to set you back a yard.”
“It was an accident, I tell you,” repeated Westby.
“If it was an accident, you oughtn’t to set him back,” said Drake, his fellow Corinthian.
“It’s in the starter’s discretion,” spoke up Mason, the Pythian.
“The penalty’s a yard,” affirmed Irving.
Westby shut his lips tight and looked angrily contemptuous. Irving measured the distance. “There,” he said, “you will start there.”
Westby took the place behind the others without a word.
“Ready now! On your marks!”
The pistol cracked, and this time they all got away safely, and Irving raced after them over the grass.
From the crowd at the finish came the instant shout of names; out of the short choppy cries two names especially emerged, “Flack! Flack! Flack!” “Westby! Westby! Westby!” Those two were the favorites for the event. Irving saw the scratch men forge ahead, and mingle with the handicap runners; in the confusion of flying white figures he could not see who were leading. But the tumult near the finish grew wild; arms and caps were swung aloft, boys were leaping up and down; the red-haired Dennison ran along the edge of the track, waving his arms; Morrill on the other side did the same thing; the next moment the race had ended in a tumultuous rush of shouting boys.
[Illustration: AS TO WHO HAD WON, IRVING HAD NOT THE SLIGHTEST IDEA]
As to who had won, Irving had not the slightest idea. He was hastening up to find out—hoping that it had been Westby. And then out from the crowd burst Westby and rushed towards him, panting, flushed, hot-eyed, attended by Morrill and half a dozen other Corinthians.
“I hope you’re satisfied with your spite-work,” said Westby. His voice shook with passion, his eyes blazed; never before had Irving seen him when he had so lost control of himself. “You lost me that race—by half a yard! I hope you’re pleased with yourself!”
He surveyed Irving scornfully, breathing hard, then turned his back and strode off to the athletic house.
THE WORM BEGINS TO TURN
After the charge which Westby had flung at him so furiously, Irving looked in amazement to the other boys for an explanation. They were all Corinthians, and he saw gloom and resentment in their faces.
“I think it was pretty rough, Mr. Upton, to penalize him for an unintentional foul,” said Morrill. “He’d have beaten Flack if they’d started even.”
“But it was a foul,” protested Irving. “So I had to penalize him. I made it as small a penalty as I could.”
“You didn’t have to penalize him unless you wanted to,” said Morrill grimly. “Of course you had a perfect right to do as you pleased, only—” He shrugged his shoulders and walked away, followed by the other Corinthians.
Irving stood stricken. So this was the outcome; in seeking to be sympathetic and to be understood, he had only caused himself somehow to be more hated and despised. Bitterness rose within him, bitterness against Westby, against Morrill, against boys in general, against the school. And only an hour ago, from what he had seen and heard, he had felt that he could like Westby, and had been not without some hope that Westby might some time like him.
He saw Barclay standing with Mr. Randolph by the table on which were the prize cups; Barclay was bending over, arranging them, and the boys were gathering on the opposite side of the track, being “policed back” by the half-dozen members of the athletic committee. Evidently the award of prizes was to be made at once, and either Barclay or Randolph was to hand out the cups—perhaps also to make a speech. But Irving could not wait; he must satisfy himself of his doubts and fears, and so he hurried forward and touched Barclay on the shoulder.
“Just a moment, please,” he said, as Barclay turned. “Did I do anything wrong?”
“You penalized Westby a yard for fouling, I heard; is that so?”
“Well, you were within your rights. But if it was obviously an unintentional foul, I shouldn’t have been so strict.”
“I misunderstood what you told me,” sighed Irving. “I thought that in case of foul a fellow had to be penalized.”
“Oh, no.” Barclay was busy; he had to think up something to say, by way of a speech, and he turned and began fussing again with the cups.
Irving walked away. Even his friend Barclay was not sympathetic, did not understand the seriousness of what had happened. He could not stay longer to be the target of hostile, vengeful eyes; he felt that half the boys there were blaming him in their hearts for the defeat of their team—and that the others had no gratitude to him for their victory. Not that it would have made him feel any better if they had; he had only wanted and tried to be fair.
He walked away from the field, crossed the track, and passed round into the avenue that led up to the School. When he had gone as far as the bend where from behind the cluster of trees the School buildings became visible, he heard the pleasant ripple of laughter from the crowd. Some one, probably Barclay, was making a speech; to think of being able to stand before boys and make them laugh like that! It seemed to Irving that he had never before known what envy was.
He spent a mournful hour in his room; then, hearing footsteps on the stairs, he closed his door. The boys were returning from the field; he felt sure there would be remarks about him by Westby and Morrill and other Corinthians up and down the corridor, and he preferred not to hear them. To his surprise there was rather less disturbance than usual; perhaps the boys were too tired after their exciting and active afternoon to indulge in noisy skylarking. So Irving did not have to emerge from his solitude until the supper bell rang. Even then he waited until all the boys had passed his door and were clattering down the stairs. Yet as he descended, Westby’s indignant voice floated up to him,—
“Just because I guyed him—he felt he had to get even.”
At supper Westby did not look at Irving. One of the boys, Blake, made a comment; he said,—
“That was a mighty good race you ran, Westby; hard luck you were handicapped.”
“You can call it hard luck if you want,” said Westby.
“How did it happen, anyway?” Blake asked, quite innocently.
“Oh, don’t ask me,” said Westby.
Three or four of the boys who did know glanced slyly at Irving, and Irving, though he had meant to say nothing, spoke up; there was electricity in the air.
“Westby was unfortunate enough to foul Flack at the start; that was all there was to it,” he said. “I saw it and set him back a yard. I was under the impression that in case of foul a penalty had to be imposed—and I made the penalty as light as possible.”
He felt that this statement ought to appease any reasonable boy. But Westby was not in a reasonable mood. He paid no attention to Irving; he addressed the table.
“I told Scarborough he might have known things would be botched somehow.”
“Why?” asked Blake.
“Oh, you’ve got to have officials who know their business.”
There was an interval of silence at the table; Westby, having fired his shot, sat straight, with cheeks flushed, looking across at Blake.
“Westby feels that he has had provocation and therefore may be rude.” Irving spoke at last with calmness. “It’s true that I never officiated before at any races. At the same time, I don’t believe I did anything which some experienced officials would not have done. There are probably a good many who believe in penalizing a runner for clumsy and stupid interference as well as for deliberate intent to foul.”
He had spoken mildly; he did not even emphasize the words “clumsy and stupid.” But the retort went home; the Pythians at the table,—of whom Blake was one,—chuckled; and Westby, with a deeper shade of crimson on his face and a sudden compression of his lips, lowered his eyes.
Irving had triumphed, but after the first moment he felt surprisingly little satisfaction in his triumph. He could not help being sorry for Westby; the boy was after all right in feeling that he had been deprived of a victory to which he had been entitled. And as Irving looked at his downcast face, he softened still further; Westby had so often delighted in humiliating him, and he had longed for the opportunity of reprisal. Now it had come, and Westby was humiliated, and the audience were not unsympathetic with Irving for the achievement; yet Irving felt already the sting of remorse. Westby was only a boy, and he was a master; it was not well for a master to mortify a boy in the presence of other boys—a boy whose disappointment was already keen.
The letters were distributed; there was one for Irving from his brother. It contained news that made the world a different place from what it had been an hour ago. Lawrence was playing left end on the Harvard Freshman football eleven; not only that, but in the first game of the season, played against a Boston preparatory school, he had made the only touchdown. He added that that didn’t mean much, for he had got the ball on a fluke; still, the tone of the letter was excited and elated.
And it excited and elated Irving. He folded the letter and put it in his pocket; he sat for a moment looking out of the window with dreamy eyes and an unconscious smile. Lawrence was succeeding, was going to succeed, in a way far different from his own—if his own college course could be said in any sense to have terminated in success. Lawrence would have the athletic and the social experience which he had never had; Lawrence would be popular as he had never been; Lawrence would go brilliantly through college as he had never done. Everything now was in Lawrence’s reach, and he was a boy who would not be spoiled or led astray by the achievement of temporary glories.
In the vision of his brother’s triumphant career, Irving was transported from the troubles and perplexities, from the self-reproaches and the doubts which had been making him unhappy. He wanted now to share his happiness, to take the boys into his confidence—but one can share one’s happiness only with one’s friends. There was Westby, aggrieved and hostile; there was Carroll, sitting next to him, the queer, quizzical, silent youth, with whom Irving had been entirely unable to establish any relation of intimacy; no, there were no boys at his table with whom he was intimate enough to appeal for their interest and congratulations. And feeling this, he shrank from communicating the news,—though he felt sure that even Westby, who was going to Harvard the next year, might be interested in it; he shrank from anything like boasting. He found an outlet soon; Barclay came to see him that evening.
“I looked for you this afternoon, after the giving out of the prizes,” said Barclay. “But I couldn’t find you.”
“No, I didn’t wait for that. Did you make a speech? I heard the boys laughing and cheering as I came away.”
“Oh, yes, I got off a few stale jokes and some heavy-footed persiflage. It went well enough.—But I looked for you afterwards because I felt I may have seemed rather short when you came up; the truth is, I was racking my brain at that moment; Scarborough had just sprung the fact on me that I must make the speech.”
“Oh, it was all right,” said Irving. “I’m sorry to have bothered you at such a time. I was just a little agitated because Westby was rather angry over being penalized in the hundred—”
“So I hear. Well, it was hard luck in a way—but after all you had a perfect right to penalize him; he did foul, and he ought to be sport enough to take the consequences.”
“I suppose it wouldn’t have been—it wouldn’t be possible to run the race over?”
“Certainly not. Besides, Westby has no right to say that if he’d started even with Flack, he’d have beaten him. It’s true that he gained half a yard on Flack in the race; but it’s also true that Flack knew he had that much leeway. There’s no telling how much more Flack might have done if he’d had to. So if Westby says anything to me, I shall tell him just that.”
“I feel sorry about the thing anyway. I’m sorry I made a mess of it—as usual.”
“Oh, cheer up; it’s not going to do you any harm with the fellows. A little momentary flash from Westby and Morrill—”
“No, I wasn’t thinking of myself.”
“You weren’t!” The bluntness of Barclay’s exclamation of astonishment caused Irving to blush, and Barclay himself, realizing what he had betrayed to Irving’s perception, looked embarrassed. But Irving laughed.
“I don’t wonder you’re surprised. I guess that’s been the worst trouble with me here—thinking about myself. And that was what was troubling me when I went to you this afternoon. But it isn’t any longer. I feel bad about Westby. I can’t help thinking I did rob him of his race—and then I sat on him at supper into the bargain.”
Barclay shouted with laughter. “You sat on Westby—and you’re sorry for it! What’s happened to you, anyway? Tell me about it.”
Irving narrated the circumstances. “And I want to be friendly with him,” he concluded. “Don’t you think I might explain that it was a blunder on my part—and that I’m sorry I blundered?”
“I wouldn’t,” said Barclay. “He’s beginning to respect you now. Don’t do anything to make him think you’re a little soft. That’s what he wants to think, and he’d construe any such move on your part unfavorably.”
“Well, perhaps so.” Irving sighed.
“You’re stiffening up quite a lot,” observed Barclay.
“I was very wobbly when Westby and the other fellows went for me after that race,” confessed Irving. “If I stiffened up, I guess it was just the courage of desperation. And I don’t think that amounts to much. But I’ve cheered up for good now.”
Somewhat shyly Irving communicated the proud news about his brother.
“Oh, I read about him in to-day’s Boston newspaper,” exclaimed Barclay.
“What?” asked Irving. “Where was it? I didn’t see it.”
“You probably don’t read all the football news, as I do. But you will after this.” Barclay laughed. “Yes, there was quite an account of that game, and Upton was mentioned as being the bright particular star on the Freshman team. It never occurred to me that he was your brother.”
“Naturally not. I wish I could get away to see the game with the Yale Freshmen; I’ve never seen Lawrence play. But I don’t suppose I could manage that, could I?”
Barclay looked doubtful. “The rector’s pretty strict with the masters as well as with the boys. Especially when a man has charge of a dormitory. I somehow think it wouldn’t be wise to try it,—your first term.”
“I suppose not. Well, I shall certainly read the football columns from now on.”
“I wonder,” remarked Barclay, “if we couldn’t get the Harvard Freshmen up here to play a practice game with our School eleven—say, the week before the St. John’s game? It would be good practice for them as well as for us; three or four years ago the Freshmen played here.”
“Oh, I wish we could.” Irving’s face lighted up. “I’ll write to my brother, and perhaps he can arrange it with the captain and manager.”
“I’ll talk it over with Collingwood first,” said Barclay. “And then we’ll proceed officially; and you can pull any additional wires that are possible through your brother.” He rose to go. “I shouldn’t wonder,” he added, “if that brother of yours turned out to be a useful asset for you here.”
“I should prefer to stand on my own legs,” said Irving. “I shan’t advertise it round that I have a football brother.”
“Oh, it won’t be necessary for you to do that; things have a way of leaking out.” Barclay laughed as he took his departure.
As it happened, the next day Louis Collingwood, the captain of the School eleven, went to Barclay to consult him about the outlook for the season.
“It seems to me we’ll have a good School team,” said Collingwood, “but no second eleven capable of giving them hard practice—the kind they’ll need to beat St. John’s. If we could only arrange one or two games with outside teams, to put us into shape—”
“I was thinking of that,” said Barclay. “I wonder if we mightn’t get the Harvard Freshmen up here. They have a good eleven, apparently.”
“Yes, awfully good, from all that the papers say. Don’t you suppose their schedule is filled up?”
“It may be—but perhaps they could give us a date. Suppose you come over to my house this evening and we’ll send a letter off to their captain. And I’m sure”—Barclay threw the remark out in the most casual manner—“Mr. Upton will be glad to approach them for us through his brother.”
“His brother? Who’s that?”
“Why, didn’t you know? His brother plays left end on the team—”
“Kiddy Upton’s brother on the Harvard Freshmen! No!”
“Mr. Upton’s, I meant to say.” Louis grinned. “Is he really, Mr. Barclay?”
“I’m rather surprised you didn’t know it. But I guess Mr. Upton is the kind that doesn’t talk much.”
“I should think he’d have let that out.”
“Well, he let it out to me. I suspect—though he hasn’t told me—that he’s helping to put his brother through college. And his success in doing that will naturally depend largely on his success or failure here as a master.”
“You mean—keeping his job?”
Barclay nodded. “Yes. Oh, I don’t suppose there’s any real doubt about that. He’s a perfectly competent teacher, isn’t he? You know; you have a class with him.”
“Ye-es,” said Louis, slowly. “The trouble has been, the fellows horse him a good deal—though not quite so much as they did.”
“They’ll get over that when they know him better,” remarked Barclay.
He knew that Louis Collingwood went away feeling much impressed, and he was pretty sure he had done Irving a good turn.
It was in the noon half-hour, while Collingwood was holding this interview with Mr. Barclay, that Westby, reading the Harvard news in his Boston paper, went giggling into Morrill’s room.
“There’s a fellow named Upton playing on the Freshmen.” He showed Morrill the name. “Let’s get a crowd and go in to Kiddy; I’ll get him rattled.”
“How?” asked Morrill.
“Oh, ask him if this fellow’s a relation of his, and say I supposed of course he must be—such athletic prowess, and all that sort of thing; with a crowd standing there giggling you know how rattled he’ll get.”
“All right,” said Morrill, who was an earnest admirer of Westby’s wit.
So they collected Dennison and Smythe and Allison and Carroll and Scarborough, and marched up the corridor—humorously tramping in step—to Irving’s door. There Westby, newspaper in hand, knocked. Irving opened the door.
“Mr. Upton, sir,” began Westby, “sorry to disturb you, sir.” The boys all began to grin, and Irving saw that he was in for some carefully planned attack. “I was just reading my morning paper, sir, and I wanted to ask you what relation to you the man named Upton is that’s playing on the Harvard Freshman eleven, sir.”
Irving’s eyes twinkled; if ever the enemy had been delivered into his hands!
“What makes you think he’s a relation?” he asked, with an assumption of cold dignity.
“Oh, we all feel sure he must be, sir. Of course your well-known and justly famous interest in all athletic sports, sir—not to say your prowess in them, sir—it’s natural to suppose that any athlete named Upton would belong to the same family with you, sir.”
The boys were all on the broad grin; Westby’s manner was so expansively courteous, his compliments were so absurdly urbane, that Irving threw off his air of coldness and adopted a jaunty manner of reply which was even more misleading.
“Oh, well, if you’ve been so clever as to guess it, Westby,” he said, “I don’t mind telling you—it’s my brother.”
Westby bestowed on his confederates—quite indifferent as to whether Irving detected it or not—his slow, facetious wink. He returned then to his victim and in his most gamesome manner said,—
“I supposed of course it was your brother, sir. Or at least I should have supposed so, except that I didn’t know you had a brother at Harvard. Wasn’t it rather—what shall I say?—peu aimable not to have taken us, your friends, into your confidence? Would you mind telling us, sir, what your brother’s first name is?”
“My brother’s first name? Lawrence.”
“Hm!” said Westby, referring to his newspaper. “I find him set down here as ‘T. Upton.’ But I suppose that is a misprint, of course.”
“I suppose it must be,” agreed Irving.
“Newspapers are always making mistakes, aren’t they?” said Westby. “Such careless fellows! We’d like awfully to hear more about your brother Lawrence, Mr. Upton.”
The broad grin broke into a snicker.
“Why, I don’t know just what there is to tell,” Irving said awkwardly.
“What does he look like, sir? Does he resemble you very much?—I mean, apart from the family fondness for athletics.”
Irving’s lips twitched; Westby was enjoying so thoroughly his revenge! And the other boys were all stifling their amusement.
“We are said not to look very much alike,” he answered. “He is of a somewhat heavier build.”
“He must be somewhat lacking, then, in grace and agility, sir,” said Westby; and the boys broke into a shout, and Irving gave way to a faint smile.
At that moment Collingwood came up the stairs.
“Hello, Lou,” said Westby, with a welcoming wink. “We’re just congratulating Mr. Upton on his brother; did you know that he has a brother playing on the Harvard Freshmen?”
“Yes,” said Collingwood. “I’ve just heard it from Mr. Barclay.”
The boys stared at Collingwood, then at Irving, whose eyes were twinkling again and whose smile had widened. Then they looked at Westby; he was gazing at Collingwood unbelievingly,—stupefied.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked Collingwood.
And then Irving broke out into a delighted peal of laughter. He could find nothing but slang in which to express himself, and through his laughter he ejaculated,—
“Stung, my young friend! Stung!”
They all gave a whoop; they swung Westby round and rushed him down the corridor to his room, shouting and jeering.
When Irving went down to lunch, Carroll, the quizzical, silent Carroll, welcomed him with a grin. Westby turned a bright pink and looked away. At the next table Allison and Smythe and Scarborough were all looking over at him and smiling; and at the table beyond that Collingwood and Morrill and Dennison were craning their necks and exhibiting their joy. Westby, the humorist, had suddenly become the butt, a position which he had rarely occupied before.
He was quite subdued through that meal. Once in the middle of it, Irving looked at him and caught his eye, and on a sudden impulse leaned back and laughed. Carroll joined in, Westby blushed once more, the Sixth Formers at the next table looked over and began to laugh; the other boys cast wondering glances.
“What’s the joke, Mr. Upton?” asked Blake.
“Oh, don’t ask me,” said Irving. “Ask Westby.”
“What is it, Wes?” said Blake, and could not understand why he received such a vicious kick under the table, or why Carroll said in such a jeering way, “Yes, Wes, what is the joke, anyhow?”
When the meal was over, Westby’s friends lay in wait for him outside in the hall, crowded round, and began patting him on the back and offering him their jocular sympathy. To have the joke turned on the professional humorist appeared to be extremely popular; and the humorist did not take it very well. “Oh, get out, get out!” he was saying, wrenching himself from the grasp of first one and then another. And Irving came out just as he exclaimed in desperation, “Just the same, I’ll bet it’s all a fake; I’ll bet he hasn’t got a brother!”
He flung himself around, trying to escape from Collingwood’s clutch, and saw Irving. The smile faded from Irving’s face; Westby looked at him sullenly for a moment, then broke away and made a rush up the stairs.
THE HARVARD FRESHMAN
For two or three days the intercourse between Irving and Westby was of the most formal sort. At table they held no communication with each other; in the class-room Irving gave Westby every chance to recite and conscientiously helped him through the recitation as much as he did any one else; in the dormitory they exchanged a cold good-night. Irving did not press Westby for a retraction of the charge which he had overheard the boy make; it seemed to him unworthy to dignify it by taking such notice of it. He knew that none of the boys really believed it and that Westby himself did not believe it, but had been goaded into the declaration in the desperate effort to maintain a false position. Irving wondered if the boy would not have the fairness to make some acknowledgment of the injustice into which his pride had provoked him.
And one day at luncheon, Westby turned to Irving and with an embarrassed smile said,
“Mr. Upton, do you get any news from your brother about the Harvard Freshman eleven?”
Carroll directed at Westby the quizzical look under which Irving had so often suffered. But Westby did not flinch; he waited for Irving’s answer, with his embarrassed, appealing smile.
“I had a letter from him this morning,” said Irving. “He writes that there is a chance of their coming up here to play the School eleven; I had asked him if that couldn’t be arranged.”
“Oh, really!” exclaimed Westby, in a tone of honest interest.
“When, Mr. Upton?” “Does he think they’ll come?” “Does Lou Collingwood know about it?”
“I guess he knows as much as I do.” Irving tried to answer the flood of questions. “He wrote officially to the captain at the same time that I wrote to Lawrence. If they come at all, it will be about a week before the St. John’s game.”
“When shall we know for sure?” asked Westby.
“It appears to be a question whether the Freshmen will choose to play us or Lakeview School. They want to play whichever team seems the stronger, and they’re going to discuss the prospects and decide in a few days.”
“I’m sure we’re better than Lakeview,” declared Blake. “You’ll tell your brother we are, won’t you, Mr. Upton?”
“I’ll tell him that I understand we have a very superior team,” said Irving. “I fancy he knows that it’s as much as I can do to tell the difference between a quarterback and a goal post.”
“You will admit, then, that there was some reason for my not believing you had a football brother, won’t you, Mr. Upton?” Westby tried thus to beat a not wholly inglorious retreat.
“Every reason—until it became a matter of doubting my word,” said Irving.
Westby crimsoned, and Irving felt that again he had been too severe with him; the boy had been trying to convey an apology, without actually making one; it might have been well to let him off.
But Irving reflected that the account was still far from even and that perhaps this unwonted adversity might be good for Westby. Irving did not realize quite how much teasing had been visited upon Westby in consequence of his disastrous error, or how humiliated the boy had been in his heart. For Westby was proud and vain and sensitive, accustomed to leadership, unused to ridicule; for two days now the shafts of those whom he had been in the habit of chaffing with impunity had been rankling. Because of this sensitive condition, the final rebuke at the luncheon table, before all the boys, cut him more deeply than Irving suspected. Afterwards Westby said to Carroll,—
“Oh, very well. If he couldn’t accept my acknowledgment of my mistake, but had to jump on me again—well, it’s just spite on his part; that’s all. I don’t care; I can let him alone after this. That seems to be what he wants.”
“A month ago he wouldn’t have asked more than that of you,” observed Carroll. “And you didn’t feel like obliging him then.”
The implication that Irving had worsted him galled Westby.
“Oh,” he retorted, “the best of jokes will wear out. Kiddy was a perfectly good joke for a while—”
Carroll annoyed him by laughing.
For one who had hitherto been indifferent to all forms of athletics, Irving developed a surprising interest in the game of football. Every afternoon he went to the field and watched the practice of the Pythian and Corinthian elevens. He had once thought the forward pass a detail incapable of engaging one’s serious attention, and worthy of rebuke if attempted in dormitory; but after Lawrence wrote that in executing it he was acquiring some proficiency, Irving studied it with a more curious eye.
He wondered if Lawrence was as skillful at it as Collingwood, for instance; Collingwood had now learned to shoot the ball with accuracy twenty or twenty-five yards. Occasionally Irving got hold of a football and tested his own capacity in throwing it; his attempts convinced him that in this matter he had a great deal to learn. Looking back, he could comprehend Louis Collingwood’s indignation and amazement at a master who would coldly turn away when a boy was trying to illustrate for him the forward pass.
One afternoon from watching the football practice Irving moved aside for a little while to see the finish of the autumn clay-pigeon shoot of the Gun Club.
There were only six contestants, and there were not many spectators; most of the boys preferred to stay on the football field, where there was more action; the second Pythians and second Corinthians were playing a match. But Irving had heard Westby talking at luncheon about the shoot and strolled over more from curiosity to see how he would acquit himself than for any other reason.
The trap was set in the long grass on the edge of the meadow near the woods; Allison was performing the unexciting task of pulling the string and releasing the skimming disks. When Irving came up, Smythe was finishing; he did not appear to be much of a shot, for he missed three out of the seven “birds” which Irving saw him try for.
Then it was Westby’s turn. Westby had got himself up for the occasion, in a Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers and leggings; he was always scrupulous about appearing in costumes that were extravagantly correct. He saw Irving and somewhat ostentatiously turned away.
Irving waited and looked on. Westby stood in an almost negligent attitude, with his gun lowered; the trap was sprung, the clay pigeon flew—and then was shattered in the midst of its flight. It seemed to Irving that Westby hardly brought his gun to his shoulder to take aim. It could not all be luck either; that was evident when Westby demolished ten clay pigeons in rapid succession. It was Carroll’s turn now; Westby, having made his perfect score, blew the smoke from the breech and stood by.
Irving went up to him.
“I congratulate you on your shooting, Westby,” he said. “It seems quite wonderful to a man who never fired a gun off but a few times in his life—and then it was a revolver, with blank cartridges.”
Westby looked at him coolly. “It’s funny you’ve never done anything that most fellows do,” he observed. “Were you always afraid of hurting yourself?”
“I was offering my congratulations, Westby,” said Irving stiffly, and walked away.
“Why did you go at him like that?” asked Carroll, who had heard the interchange.
“Oh,” said Westby, “I wasn’t going to have him hanging round swiping to me, soft-soaping me.”
“I think he was only trying to be decent,” said Carroll.
“I like a man who is decent without trying,” Westby retorted.
Yet whether his nerves were a little upset by the episode or his eye thrown off by the wait, Westby did not do so well in the next round. The trap was set to send the birds skimming lower and faster; Westby missed two out of ten, and was tied for first place with Carroll. And in the final shoot to break the tie, Westby lost.
He shook hands with Carroll, but with no excess of good humor. He knew he was really the better shot, and even though Carroll was his closest friend, the defeat rankled.
At supper Blake congratulated Carroll across the table.
“You won, did you, Carroll?” asked Irving.
“Yes, sir—by a close shave.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t stay to see it.” The remark was innocent in intention, but to Westby it seemed edged with malice—as if the master was exulting over his defeat.
Something in Westby’s expression told Irving what the boy had inferred; Irving went afterwards to his room in a despondent mood. It didn’t matter how hard he tried or what he did; he had not the faculty of winning and holding affection and respect. As it was with boys, so it would be with men. If only he could see how and why he failed, and could learn to correct his mistakes!
He felt of more importance in the School world when a letter from Lawrence was the first announcement that the Freshman eleven would come to play St. Timothy’s. He asked Collingwood if he had had any word, and when Collingwood said no, he told him his brother’s message.
“I don’t believe there can be any mistake,” said Irving. “He writes that it was decided only the night before. You’ll probably receive the official communication in a day or two.”
Collingwood was tremendously elated. “I knew we were better than Lakeview—but I was afraid they wouldn’t realize it,” he said. “Now we’ll have to get ready and beat them. Anyway, if we can’t do that, it will be the best kind of preparation for the St. John’s game.”
The official communication arrived; Collingwood rushed with it to the bulletin board in the Study building and posted it for all eyes to see. The same day he posted the School eleven, as it would line up in that game.
Westby was to be first substitute for Dennison at right half back. Westby had been playing a streaky game on the First Corinthians; on some days he was as brilliant a runner and tackler as there was in the School, and on other days he would lose interest and miss everything.
If he was disappointed at the preference given to Dennison, he did not show it; in fact, that he appeared on the list as substitute seemed to fill him with elation. He had never taken football quite so seriously as some of the others—as Collingwood and Dennison, for example; and therefore only a moderate success in it was for him a matter of gratification.
The training table was organized at once, but Westby was not admitted to it. There was not room for the substitutes; they were expected to do their own training. Westby was notoriously lax in that matter and had to be nagged constantly by Collingwood, whom he found some pleasure in teasing.
He would secure some forbidden article of food and ostentatiously appear to be eating it with the greatest enjoyment until he caught Collingwood’s eye; a large circular doughnut or a chocolate eclair delicately poised between his thumb and finger were his favorite instruments for torturing his captain’s peace of mind. He would contrive to be seen just as he was on the point of taking the first bite; then he would reluctantly lay the tidbit down.
“It’s a hard life, this being a near athlete,” he grumbled. “Sitting at a table with a lot of uncongenial pups like you fellows.—Mr. Upton, Blake’s kicking me; make him quit, sir.—Not allowed to eat half the things the rest of you do, and not allowed either to get any of the training-table grub. Well, I never did think of self, so I can endure it better than most.”
The others jeered. But Westby, however he might complain, was faithful at practice and accepted good-naturedly his position upon the second eleven, and the hard battering to which every one on the second eleven was subjected.
The day when he got round Morrill, the first eleven’s left end, and scored a touchdown—the only one which in that week of practice the second eleven scored—brought him so much applause that he began really to think there might be a chance of his ousting Dennison from the regular position. When that notion entered his head he ceased to be facetious about the training; he became suddenly as serious as Collingwood himself. But in spite of that, he remained Dennison’s substitute.
The Saturday set for the game with the Harvard Freshmen was an Indian Summer day. In the early morning mist wreathed the low meadows and the edges of the pond; it seemed later to dissipate itself through all the windless air in haze. The distant hills were blue and faint, the elms in the soft sunlight that filtered down had a more golden glow.
“Great day,” was the salutation that one heard everywhere; “great day for the game.”
Now and then in his morning classes Irving’s thoughts would wander, there would be a gentle rush of excitement in his veins. He would turn his mind firmly back to his work; he did not do any less well that day because his heart was singing happily.
In three hours more—in two—in one—he was going to see Lawrence again; he wondered if he would find his brother much changed. Only two months had passed since they had parted; yet in that time how remote Lawrence had grown in Irving’s eyes from the Lawrence of the Ohio farm!
The bell announcing the noon recess rang; Irving dismissed his last class. He hurried down the stairs almost as madly as the Fourth Formers themselves; the train on which the Harvard Freshmen were coming was due ten minutes before; already Lawrence and the others must have started on the two-mile drive out to the School.
In front of the Study building most of the older boys and many of the younger were congregated, awaiting the arrival of the visitors. Irving walked about among the groups impatiently, now and then looking at his watch. He passed Westby and Collingwood, who were standing together by the gate.
“Pretty nearly time for them, Mr. Upton,” said Westby. “Feeling nervous, sir?”
There was more good nature in his smile than he had displayed towards Irving since the day of the track games.
“A little,” Irving admitted, and at that moment some one shouted, “Here they come!”
Over the crest of the hill galloped four horses, drawing a long red barge crowded with boys. Collingwood climbed up on the gate-post.
“Now, fellows,” he said, “when they get here, give three times three for the Freshmen.”
The boys waited in silence. Irving strained his eyes, trying to distinguish the figures huddled together in the barge. The horses came down at a run, with a rattle of hoofs and harness; the driver flourished his whip over them spectacularly.
“Now then, fellows!” cried Collingwood. “Three times three for the Freshmen!”
And amidst the waving of caps as the cheers were given, Irving could see no one in the barge. Then when that cheer had subsided, one of the visitors stood up and took off his hat and shouted,—
“Three times three for St. Timothy’s! One—two—three!” The fellows in the barge sent up a vigorous, snappy cheer, and then overflowed at back and sides. In the confusion and the crowd, Irving was still straining his short-sighted eyes in a vain attempt to discover Lawrence.
Suddenly he heard a shout,—“Hello, Irv!”—and there, a little way off, was Lawrence, laughing at him and struggling towards him through the throng. The boys understood and drew apart and let the two brothers meet.
“It’s great to see you again, Irv,” said Lawrence, when he could reach and grasp his brother’s hand; he looked at Irving with the same old loving humor in his eyes.
“It’s great to see you again, Lawrence,” said Irving. He could not help being a little conscious and constrained, with so many eyes upon him.
He tucked one hand in his brother’s arm and with the other reached for Lawrence’s bag. Lawrence laughed, and with hardly an effort detached it from Irving’s grasp.
“You carry that, you little fellow! I guess not,” he said.
Some of the boys heard and smiled, and Lawrence threw back at them a humorous smile; Irving blushed. He led Lawrence away, towards the Upper School. The other Freshmen were being conducted in the same direction by Collingwood and his team.
“Well,” said Westby to Carroll in an outpouring of slang from the heart, “Kiddy’s brother is certainly a peach of a good looker. I hope he’ll bring him to lunch.”
WESTBY IN THE GAME
It was with satisfaction that Westby and Carroll saw Lawrence entering the dining-room with Irving. They had observed the long table spread in the common room of the Upper School, where the visiting team were to be entertained at luncheon, and had supposed therefore that they would have no chance of satisfying their curiosity about the master’s brother.
When Irving introduced Lawrence to them, Westby said,—
“We hoped we were going to see you here, but we were afraid you might have to eat outside with your team.”
“Oh, I got special permission from the captain for this occasion,” said Lawrence. “I’m afraid I’m depriving somebody of his seat,” he added to Irving.
“It’s Caldwell—I arranged with him about it. He’s gone to Mr. Randolph’s table.”
“Besides, he’s only a Fourth Former,” said Westby.
Lawrence laughed. “You’re Sixth, I suppose?” Westby nodded. “Going to Harvard next year?”
“Good for you. I’ll tell you one thing; you couldn’t have a better man to get you in than this brother of mine—if I do say it. He tutored me for Harvard—and I guess you’ve never had a worse blockhead, have you, Irv?”
“Oh, you were all right in some things, Lawrence.”
“I’d like to know what. How I used to try your patience, though!” Lawrence chuckled, then turned and addressed the boys, especially Westby and Carroll, as they were the oldest. “Did any of you ever see him mad?”
“Oh, surely never that,” said Westby urbanely. “Irritated perhaps, but not mad—never lacking in self-control.”
Westby, thinking himself safe, ventured upon his humorous wink to Blake and the others who were grinning; Lawrence intercepted it and at once fixed Westby with a penetrating gaze.
Westby colored and looked down; Lawrence held his eyes on him until Westby looked up and then, in even greater embarrassment under this prolonged scrutiny, down again. Then Lawrence turned to his brother.
“Tell me, Irv,” he said in a tone that simply brushed aside as non-existent everybody else at the table—just as if he and his brother were talking together alone, “what sort of kids do you have to look after in your dormitory, anyhow?”
Irving’s lip twitched with amusement; Westby, still scarlet, was looking at his plate. “Oh, a pretty good sort—but they’re Sixth Formers, you know—not kids.”
“Pretty fresh, are they—trying to show off a good deal and be funny?”
“Oh, one or two only; still, even they aren’t bad.”
Lawrence paid no further attention to Westby. Now and then he spoke to Carroll and to Blake, but most of his conversation—and it dealt with the sort of college life about which boys liked to hear, and about which Irving had never been able to enlighten them—he addressed directly to his brother.
Westby listened to it gloomily; there were many questions that he wanted to ask, but now he did not dare. Evidently Mr. Upton had warned his brother against him, had imparted to his brother his own dislike; that was why Lawrence had nipped so brutally his harmless, humorous allusion to the master’s temper.
As a matter of fact, Lawrence had had no previous knowledge whatever of Westby; Irving had always withstood his impulse to confide his troubles. He made now an effort to draw Westby forward and reinstate him in the conversation; he said,—
“Lawrence, you and Westby here may come against each other this afternoon; Westby’s first substitute for one of the half-backs on the School eleven.”
Lawrence said, “That’s good,” and gave Westby hardly a glance.
After luncheon, walking down to the athletic field with Westby, Carroll said jeeringly,—
“Well, Kiddy Upton’s brother is no myth, is he, Wes?”
At that Westby began to splutter. “Conceited chump! He makes me tired. Of all the fresh things—to sit up there and talk about the ‘kids’ in Kiddy’s dormitory!”
Carroll laughed in his silent, irritating way. “He certainly put you down and out—a good hard one. Why, even Kiddy was sorry for you.”
Westby went on fuming. “Sorry for me! I guess Kiddy had been whining to him about how I’d worried him. That’s why the chump had it in for me.”
“Chump, Wes! Such a peach of a good looker?”
“Oh, shut up. I don’t care if he is good looking; he’s fresher than paint.”
“He would think that was a queer criticism for you to make.”
Westby stalked on in angry silence. He was more wounded than he could let Carroll know. There was a side to him which he shrank from displaying,—the gentle, affectionate side of which Irving had had a glimpse when the boy was anxiously watching his young cousin Price in the mile run; and to this quality Lawrence’s greeting of his brother had unconsciously appealed. Westby had stood by and heard his words, “You carry that, you little fellow!” had seen the humor in his eyes and the gentleness on his lips, and had felt something in his own throat.
For all his affectation of worldliness and cynicism, the boy was a hero-worshiper at heart, and could never resist being attracted by a fine face and a handsome pair of eyes and a pleasant voice; Lawrence had in the first glance awakened an enthusiasm which was eager for near acquaintance. And now, although he talked so venomously against him, it was not Lawrence whom he reproached in his heart; it was himself.
Why had he been unable to resist the impulse to be smart, to be funny, to be cheap? He might have known that a fellow like Lawrence would see through his remark and would resent it; he might have known that his silly, clownish wink could not escape Lawrence’s keen eyes.
So Westby walked on, gloomily reproaching himself, unconscious that at that very moment, walking a hundred yards behind, Irving was defending him.
“A month ago, Lawrence, I’d have been glad to have you light on Westby as you did,” he said. “But now I’m rather sorry.”
“Oh, he’s had some hard luck lately, and—well, I don’t know. Those encounters with a boy don’t seem to me worth while.”
“You’ve got to suppress them when they’re fresh like that,” insisted Lawrence. “For a fellow to talk to you in that fresh way before a guest—and that guest your brother—I don’t stand for it; that’s all.”
“No, I don’t either. Well, it doesn’t matter much; reproof slides off Westby like water off a duck’s back.”
They talked of other things then until Lawrence had to join his team and enter the athletic house with them to dress.
Out on the field Irving mingled with the crowd, walked to and fro nervously, stopped to say only a word now to a boy, now to a master, and then passed on. It was foolish for him to be so excited, so tremulous, he told himself. Lawrence had parted from him with the same calmness with which he might have gone to prepare for bed. It was all the more foolish to be so excited, because the accessories to promote a preliminary excitement were lacking,—rivalry, partisanship; the visiting team had no supporters.
The School had turned out to see the game, but there was no cheering, no thrill of expectation; the boys stood about and waited quietly, as they would before ordinary practice. It would be different in another week, when the St. John’s team were sharing the athletic house with St. Timothy’s, and the adherents of the two schools were ranged opposite each other, waving flags and hurling back and forth challenging cheers—cheers meant to inspirit the players while they dressed. But now Irving was aware that he in all the crowd was the only one whose nerves and muscles were quivering, whose voice might not be quite natural or quite under his control, whose heart was beating hard.
If Lawrence should not play well this time—the first time he had ever seen him play! Or if anything should happen to him! Irving tramped back and forth, digging cold hands into his pockets.
The Harvard team was the first to leave the athletic house; they broke through the line of spectators near where Irving stood and trotted out on the field. As they passed, he caught his brother’s eye and waved to him. In the preliminary practice Irving watched him eagerly; with his light curly hair he was conspicuous, and as he was on the end of the line his movements were easy to follow. It seemed to Irving that he was the quickest and the readiest and the handsomest of them all.
Out came St. Timothy’s, and then there was a cheer. The two teams went rollicking and tumbling up and down the field for a few moments; then Collingwood and the Harvard captain met in the centre, Mr. Barclay tossed a coin, and the players went to their positions. Mr. Barclay blew a whistle; the game began.
From that time on Irving trotted up and down the side lines, his heart twittering with pride and anxiety. After every scrimmage, after every tackle, he looked apprehensively for a curly light head; he was always glad when he saw it bob up safely out of a pile. Through all the press and conflict, he watched for it, followed it—just as, he thought in one whimsical moment, the French troopers of Macaulay’s poem watched for the white plume of Navarre.
If he had known even less about the game than he did, he must still have seen that for Harvard his brother and Ballard, the fullback, were playing especially well. Ballard, with his hard plunges through the centre and his long punts, was the chief factor in Harvard’s offensive game; Lawrence was their ablest player on the defense.
After the first ten minutes St. Timothy’s made hardly an attempt to go round his end, but devoted their assaults to the centre and other wing of the line.
If there was one thing for which Collingwood, the best football player in the School, had achieved a special reputation, it was the fleetness and dexterity with which he could run the ball back after punts. He was known as the best man in the back field that St. Timothy’s had had in years. So when Ballard prepared for his first kick, the spectators looked on with composure.
It was a fine kick; the ball went spiraling high and far, but Collingwood was under it as it fell, and Dennison was in front of him to protect him.
Yet Lawrence, rushing down upon them, was too quick, too clever; Dennison’s attempt to block him off was only a glancing one that staggered him for the fraction of an instant; and the ball had no sooner struck in Collingwood’s arms than Lawrence launched himself and hurled the runner backwards.
“Whew! What a fierce tackle!” ejaculated a boy near Irving admiringly.
“I think Lou did well to hang on the ball,” responded his friend.
Irving heard; he went about greedily drinking in comments which that tackle had evoked. He found himself standing behind Westby and the other substitutes, who, wrapped in blankets, trailed up and down the field keeping pace with the progress of their team.
“No!” Briggs, one of the substitutes, was saying. “Was that Kiddy Upton’s brother? He’s a whirlwind, isn’t he?”
“Looked to me as if he was trying to lay Lou Collingwood out,” returned Westby sourly.
At once Irving’s cheeks flamed hot. He put out his hand and touched Westby’s shoulder; the boy turned, and then the blood rushed into his cheeks too.
“Was there anything wrong about that tackle, Westby?” Irving asked.
“It just seemed to me he threw him pretty hard.”
Irving spoke to the three or four other substitutes standing by.
“I don’t know much about football; was there anything wrong with that tackle—that it should be criticised?”
“It looked all right to me,” said Briggs.
“If there is any question about it, I shall want to talk to my brother—”
“Oh, it was all right,” Windom spoke up. “It was a good, clean, hard tackle—the right kind. Wes is always down on the enemy, aren’t you, Wes?”
Westby stood in sullen silence. The next play was started; St. Timothy’s gained five yards, and in the movement of the crowd Irving and Westby were separated.
For a few moments Irving’s thoughts were diverted from his brother, and his joyous excitement was overshadowed by regret. He felt less indignant with Westby than sorry for him; he knew that the boy had repented of his hasty and intemperate words. If he would only come up and acknowledge it—so that he might be forgiven!
Then Irving put Westby out of his mind. St. Timothy’s had kicked; Ballard had recovered the ball for Harvard on St. Timothy’s forty-yard line, and then Warren, the quarterback, had made a long pass straight into Lawrence’s hands; Lawrence started to run; then, just as Chase and Baldersnaith were bearing down for the tackle, he stopped and hurled the ball forward and across to Newell, the other Harvard end.
It sailed clear over the heads of the intervening players; Newell had been signaled to, had got down the field and was ready for it; three St. Timothy’s players ran to get under the ball, but instead of blocking Newell off and merely trying to spoil his catch, they all tried to make the catch themselves; they all leaped for it. Newell was the quickest; he grabbed the ball out of the air and went down instantly, with the three others on him—but he was on St. Timothy’s ten-yard line.
It was a brilliant pass and a brilliant catch; St. Timothy’s stood looking on disconsolate, while the Harvard players gathered exultantly for the line-up. Three rushes through tackle and centre and one run round Lawrence’s end carried the ball across St. Timothy’s line for a touchdown. Ballard kicked the goal.
There was no more scoring that half. In the second half St. Timothy’s kicked off; Harvard got the ball and set about rushing it back up the field. They had gained ten yards and had carried the ball forty yards from their own goal, when they lost possession of it on a fumble. The spectators cheered, and began shouting,—
“Touchdown, St. Timothy’s, touchdown!”
There was more shouting when, with Collingwood interfering
Dennison broke through the Harvard left tackle and made fifteen yards.
Then Collingwood made a quarter-back kick which Morrill captured on the
Harvard five-yard line.
The St. Timothy’s cheering broke out afresh, Scarborough leading it. Irving joined in the cheer; he was glad to see Collingwood and the others making gains—provided they did not make them round Lawrence’s end.
On the five-yard line the Harvard defense stiffened. On the third down the ball was two yards from the goal line.
“Everybody get into this next play—everybody!” cried Collingwood appealingly; he went about slapping his men on the back. “Now then—twelve, thirty-seven, eighteen.”
There was a surge forward, a quivering, toppling mass that finally fell indecisively. No one knew whether the ball had been pushed across or not. No one wanted to get up for fear it might be pushed one way or the other in the shifting.
Barclay and Randolph, who was umpire, began summarily dragging the players from the pile, hauling at an arm or a leg; at last Dennison was revealed at the bottom hugging the ball—and it was just across the line.
Then all the St. Timothy’s players capered about for joy, and the spectators shouted as triumphantly as if it had been the St. John’s game; the Harvard team ranged themselves quietly under the goal. Dennison kicked the goal, and the score was tied.
For the next ten minutes neither team succeeded in making much progress. St. Timothy’s were playing more aggressively than in the first half; twice Kenyon, the Harvard halfback, started to skirt round Lawrence’s end, but both times Baldersnaith, the St. Timothy’s tackle, broke through and dragged him down. Baldersnaith, Dennison, Morrill, and Collingwood were especially distinguishing themselves for the School.
At last, after one of the scrimmages, Dennison got up, hobbled a moment, and then sat down again. Collingwood hurried over to him anxiously.
“Wrenched my ankle,” said Dennison. “I guess I’ll be all right in a moment.”
Waring, the Fifth Former, who acted as water-carrier, ran out on the field with his pail and sponge. Mr. Barclay examined the ankle, then turned to Collingwood.
“I think he could go on playing,” he said. “But if I were you I’d take him out now and save him for the St. John’s game. You don’t want to risk his being laid up for that.”
Dennison protested, but Collingwood agreed with Mr. Barclay. He turned and called, “Westby”; and as Westby ran out, Dennison picked himself up and limped to the side-line.
It was Harvard’s ball in the middle of the field. Though it was only the first down, Ballard dropped back to kick.
“Now then, Wes, hang on to it,” Collingwood cried as he and Westby turned and ran to their places in the back field.
Westby had a faint hope that the kick might go to Collingwood; he didn’t feel quite ready yet to catch the ball; he wanted to be given a chance to steady down first. But he knew that was exactly what the Harvard quarterback intended to prevent.
The ball came sailing, high and twisting; he had to run back to get under it. Then he planted himself, but the ball as it came down was slanted off by the wind, so that he had at the last to make a sudden dash for it; it struck and stuck, hugged to his breast, and then over he went with a terrific shock, which jarred the ball from his grasp.
Irving had seen the play with mingled joy and sorrow. It was his brother who had made the tackle; it was Newell, the other Harvard end, who had dropped on the fumbled ball.
Westby and Lawrence got to their feet together; Lawrence’s eyes were dancing with triumphant expectation; the ball was Harvard’s now on St. Timothy’s twenty-yard line. And Westby went dully to his position, aware of the accusing silence of the crowd.
“All right, Wes; we’ll stop them,” Collingwood said to him cheerfully.
Westby did his best and flung himself desperately into the thick of every scrimmage. The whole team did its best, but Harvard would not be denied. By short rushes they fought their way down, down, and at last across the goal line—and the game was won. There were only three minutes left to play, and in that time neither side scored.
When Mr. Barclay blew his whistle, the Harvard team assembled and cheered St. Timothy’s, and then St. Timothy’s assembled and cheered Harvard. After that the players walked to the athletic house, beset on the way by the curious or by friends.
Westby was the victim of condolences, well meant but ill-timed; he responded curtly when Blake, pushing near, said to him, “It was awfully hard luck, Wes—but after that you played a mighty good game.” He wished nothing but to be let alone, he wished no sympathy. He knew that he had lost the game; that was enough for him.
In the dressing-room he sat on a bench next to Lawrence Upton and began putting on his clothes in silence. The other boys were talking all round him, commenting cheerfully on the plays and on the future prospects of the teams.
Lawrence refrained from discussing the game at all; he asked Westby what St. Timothy’s boys he knew at Harvard, and where he expected to room when he went there; he tried to be friendly. But Westby repelled his efforts, answering in a sullen voice. At last Lawrence finished dressing; he picked up his bag and turned to Westby.
“Look here,” he said, and there was a twinkle in his eyes. “I’m going to be at Harvard the next three years; we’re likely to meet. Must a little hard luck make hard feeling?”
“Oh, there’s no hard feeling,” Westby assured him.
“Glad to hear it. Good-by.” Lawrence held out his hand.
“You’re not going to stay for supper?”
“No. I’m going back with the team on the six o’clock train—hour exam on Monday. My brother’s waiting for me outside; I want to see him for a while before we start. I hope to come up here some time again—hope I’ll see you.”
“Thanks. I hope so. Good-by.”
The words were all right, but Westby spoke them mechanically. It had flashed upon him that Lawrence would now learn from his brother the charge that he had so unjustly and hotly made. And of a sudden he wished he could prevent that. He would have been glad to go to Irving and retract it all and apologize; anything to keep Lawrence from hearing of it.
Why had he been so slow in dressing—why hadn’t he hurried on his clothes and gone out ahead of Lawrence and made it all right with Irving!
With a wild thought that it might not yet be too late, he flung on his coat and rushed from the building—only to see Irving and Lawrence walking together across the football field.
MASTER AND BOY
For several days Westby’s unnatural quiet was attributed to his sensitiveness over the error which had given the Harvard Freshmen their victory. It was most noticeable at Irving’s table; there his bubbling spirits seemed permanently to have subsided; he wrapped himself in silence and gloom. His manner towards Irving was that of haughty displeasure. Carroll was at a loss to understand it and questioned him about it one day.
“Oh, I’m just tired of him—tired of hearing his everlasting brag about his brother,” Westby said sharply.
“He bragged so little about him once you wouldn’t believe he had a brother,” replied Carroll. “I don’t see that he brags much more about him now.”
“Well, I see it, and it annoys me,” retorted Westby rudely. “I think I’ll see if I can have my seat changed. I’d rather sit at Scabby’s table.”
Mr. Randolph, however, the head of the Upper School, refused to grant Westby’s petition.
“You don’t give any special reason,” he said. “You have friends at Mr. Upton’s table; you ought to be contented to stay there. What’s the matter? Are you having friction with some one?”
“I should be better satisfied if I were at Scarborough’s table,” said Westby.
“We can’t gratify every individual preference or whim,” replied Mr. Randolph.
He asked Irving if he knew of any reason why Westby should be transferred and told him that the boy had asked for the change.
“Oh, it’s just between him and me,” said Irving wearily. “We don’t get on.”
“Then you’d like to have him go, too?”
“No, I wouldn’t. When he’s his natural self, I like him. And I haven’t yet given up the hope that some time we’ll get together.”
He met Westby’s coldness with coolness. But on the morning of the St. John’s game, after breakfast, he drew Westby aside. He held a letter in his hand.
“Westby,” he said, “I don’t know that you will care to hear it, but I have a message for you from my brother.”
Westby cast down his eyes and reddened. “I don’t suppose I shall care to hear it,” he said with a humility that amazed Irving. “But go ahead—give it to me, Mr. Upton.”
“I don’t quite understand—he just asked me to say to you that he hopes you’ll get your chance in the game to-day. He felt you were rather cut up by your hard luck in the Freshman game.”
“Didn’t he—isn’t he—” Westby hesitated for an uncomfortable moment, then blurted out, “Isn’t he sore at me, Mr. Upton?”
“For saying about him what I did—about his trying to lay Collingwood out when he tackled.”
“He doesn’t know you said it.”
“Oh! Didn’t you tell him?”
“No. The criticism was unjust—there was no use in repeating it.”
“It was unjust.” Westby had lowered his voice. “I am very much ashamed, Mr. Upton.”
“That’s all right,” said Irving. He took Westby’s hand. “I hope too you’ll get your chance in the game.”
“Thank you.” Westby spoke humbly. “I hope if I do, I won’t make a mess of it again.”
That game was far different in color and feeling from the one with the Freshmen on the Saturday before. Long before it began the boys of St. John’s with their blue banners and flags and the boys of St. Timothy’s with their red were ranged on opposite sides of the field, hurling defiant, challenging cheers across at one another; for St. Timothy’s a band, in which Scarborough beat the drum and was director, paraded back and forth; the little boys were already hopping up and down and trembling and squealing with excitement; already their little voices were almost gone.
Irving knew that to himself alone was this occasion one of less moving interest than that of the preceding Saturday; as he stood and looked on at the waving red and the waving blue and later at the struggle that was being waged in the middle of the field, he wondered how on this afternoon that other game between the red and the blue was going, and how Lawrence was acquitting himself.
Certainly it could not, he thought, be any more close, more hotly contested, than this of the two rival schools. All through the first half they fought each other without scoring.
Once St. Timothy’s had got down to St. John’s fifteen-yard line, but then had been unable to go farther, and Dennison had missed by only a few feet his try for a goal from the field.
Early in the second half St. Timothy’s met with misfortune. Dennison was laid out by a hard tackle; when at last he got to his feet, he limped badly. Louis Collingwood took him by the arm and walked round with him; Dennison was arguing, protesting. But Collingwood led him towards the side-line, patting him on the back, and called “Westby!”
The spectators cheered the injured player who came off so reluctantly; then they cheered Westby as he ran out upon the field. Irving was near the group of substitutes when Dennison hobbled in.
“Hurt much, Denny?” asked Briggs.
“No—just that same old ankle—hang it all!” Dennison slipped into a blanket and lowered himself painfully to the ground.
Irving’s eyes were upon Westby; he hoped that this time the boy would not fail. Westby had an opportunity now to steady his nerves; it was St. Timothy’s ball and only the first down. Collingwood gave the signal; Irving watched closely, saw Westby take the ball on the pass and dive into the line. In a moment all the St. Timothy’s eleven seemed to be behind him, hurling him through, and St. Timothy’s on the side-lines waved and shouted, for Westby had gained five yards.
Collingwood called on him again; he gained three yards more. Irving shouted with the rest; he turned to Mr. Randolph and said,—
“That ought to give Westby confidence.”
“I hope it does; he’s so erratic,” Mr. Randolph answered. “If only he’s starting in now on one of his brilliant streaks!”
Lane, the Fifth Form halfback, tried to go round the end on the next play, but made no gain. Then Westby was driven again at left tackle, but he got only two yards.
Collingwood gave the signal for a criss-cross; Lane took the ball, and passed it to Westby, who was already on the run. Westby got clear of the St. John’s end, and seemed well started for a brilliant run; but their halfback chased him across the field and finally, by a tremendous diving tackle, pulled him down. As it was, Westby had made so much of a gain that the distance had to be measured; he had failed by only a few inches to make the required amount, and the ball went to St. John’s on their thirty-five-yard line.
St. John’s made two ineffectual rushes; then their fullback, Warner, prepared to kick. Westby and Collingwood raced to their places in the back field.
There was a tense moment on both sides; then Warner sent the ball flying high and far. It was Westby’s ball; the St. John’s ends and one of their tackles came down fast under the kick.
Irving, with his heart in his throat, watched Westby; the boy, with both hands raised, was wabbling about, stepping to the right, to the left, backward, forward; the ends were there in front of him, crouched and waiting; Collingwood tried to fend them off, but the big tackle rushed in and upset him, and at the same instant the ball fell into Westby’s arms—and slipped through them.
One of the ends dropped on the ball, rolled over with it a couple of times, rolled up on his feet again and was off with it for the St. Timothy’s goal; he had carried it to the twenty-yard line when Collingwood pulled him down. St. John’s were streaming down their side line, shrieking and waving their blue flags; St. Timothy’s stood dazed and silent.
“Oh, butterfingers!” cried Briggs, stamping his foot.
“Just like Wes—he wouldn’t make a football player in a thousand years!” exclaimed Windom.
Irving heard the comments; he heard other comments. If St. John’s should score now! He hoped they wouldn’t; he was sorry enough for Westby. But St. John’s did score, by a series of furious centre rushes, and their fullback kicked the goal. And when, fifteen minutes later, the referee blew his whistle, the game was St. John’s, by that score of six to nothing.
Irving could understand why some of the St. Timothy’s boys had tears in their eyes. It was pretty trying even for him to see the triumphant visitors rush upon the field, toss the members of their team upon their shoulders, and bear them away exultantly to the athletic house, yelling and flaunting their flags, while the St. Timothy’s players walked disconsolately and silently behind them.
It was trying afterwards to stand by and see those blue-bedecked invaders form into long-linked lines and dance their serpentine of victory on St. Timothy’s ground. It was trying to stand by and watch barge after barge bedecked with blue roll away while the occupants shouted and waved their hats—and left the field to silence and despair.
But still St. Timothy’s did not abandon the scene of their defeat. They waited loyally in front of the athletic house to welcome and console their team when it should emerge. Collingwood led the players out, and the crowd gave them a good one.
Collingwood said, with a smile, though in an unsteady voice, “Much obliged, fellows,” and waved his hand.
Then the crowd dispersed; slowly they all walked away.
That evening, as Irving was about to leave his room to go down to supper, a boy brought him a telegram. It was from his brother; it said,—
“We licked them, twelve to six. Feeling fine. Lawrence.”
At the table Irving tried not to appear too happy. He apologized for his state of mind and told the boys the cause; those who, like Carroll, were Harvard sympathizers derived a little cheer from the news, and the others seemed indifferent to it. Westby was not there. The training table was vacant, and at the other tables were empty chairs where substitutes on the team had sat. Mrs. Barclay was entertaining the football players.
“I wish I was breaking training there,” said Carroll to Irving; “she has the most wonderful food.”
In the discussion of the game there seemed to be little disposition to blame Westby.
“After all,” said Blake, “he was only a sub, and he never got so very much practice in handling punts. I don’t think fellows ought to be sore on him.”
“No, he’s just sore on himself,” said Carroll.
“It’s hard luck, anyhow; except for that one thing he played mighty well.”
The mail boy passed, leaving a letter for Irving. It was in his uncle’s handwriting; and his uncle never wrote to him; it was his aunt who kept him posted on all the news of home. Did this mean that she was ill—or that some disaster had befallen?
Irving determined that if it was bad news, he would reserve it until he should be alone; he put the letter in his pocket and waited anxiously for the meal to end.
When he was again in his room, he tore open the envelope and read this letter:—
DEAR IRVING,—I have not helped you and Lawrence much financially. I thought it would do you and him no harm to try out your own resources. But I always meant to give you a lift whenever it should seem wise, and whenever a lift could be most advantageously arranged.
Your father was never able to lay up any money; his work was of a kind that did not permit that. But he would always have shared with me whatever he had. I have had it in mind to do the same by his children. I have sold half the farm—the western half—your half and Lawrence’s. There is four thousand dollars in cash for each of you, and four thousand on a mortgage for each of you at six per cent. You had better draw out of school-teaching as soon as possible and study law—if that is still what you most want to do.
Your aunt is well and
sends her love. We are both looking forward
to seeing you and Lawrence at Christmas.
Your affectionate uncle,
A flood of warm emotion poured through Irving; his eyes filled. He had sometimes thought his uncle selfish and narrow—and all the time he had been working towards this!
Irving wrote his reply; he wrote also to Lawrence. Then he took his letters down to the Study building, to post them so that they might go out with the night mail. On his way he passed the Barclay house; it was all brightly lighted, the sound of laughter and of gay boy voices rang out through the open windows; the notes of a piano then subdued them, and there burst out a chorus in the sonorous measured sweep of “Wacht am Rhein.”
Irving stood for a few moments and listened; his exultant heart was responsive to that shouted song. Fellows who could sing like that, he thought, must have trodden disappointment under heel.
An hour later, when Irving sat in his room, the boys who had been entertained at the Barclays’ came tramping up the stairs. They were still singing, but they stopped their song before they entered the dormitory. Irving met them to say good-night—first Dennison and then Morrill and then Louis Collingwood.
“Have you heard the new song Wes has got off, Mr. Upton?” asked Dennison.
“No, what’s that?”
“Hit it up, Wes.”
“Oh, choke it off.” Collingwood grinned uneasily.
“Go on, Wes,—strike up. We’ll all join in.”
“Wait till I get my banjo—you don’t mind, do you, Mr. Upton?”
“No. I’d like to hear it.”
So Westby hastened to his room and returned, bearing the instrument; and all the other boys gathered round, except Collingwood, who stood sheepishly off at one side. Westby twanged the strings and then to the accompaniment began,—
“Across the broad prairies
he came from the west,
With fire in his eye and with brawn on his chest;
His arms they were strong and his legs they were fleet;
There was none could outstrip his vanishing feet;
We made him our captain—what else could we do?
You ask who he is? Do I hear you say, ‘Who?’”
Then they all came in on the chorus:—
“He is our Lou, he is
He is our pride and joy;
He is our Loo-loo, he is our Loo-loo,
He is our Lou-Lou boy.”
“Silly song!” exclaimed Collingwood with disgust.
“Wes made it up just this evening, at Mrs. Barclay’s,” said Dennison. “We were all singing, and after a while Wes edged in to the piano and sprung this on us. Don’t you think it’s a good song?”
“So good that I wish I could furnish inspiration for another,” said Irving.
Westby joined in the laugh and looked pleased.
“Good-night, everybody,” said Collingwood; he walked away to his room. The others followed, all except Westby, to whom Irving said,—
“Will you wait a moment? I should like to have a little talk with you.” He led the boy into his room and pushed forward his armchair.
Westby seated himself with his banjo across his knees and looked at Irving wonderingly.
“The fellows seem pretty cheerful after their defeat, don’t they?” said Irving.
A shadow crossed Westby’s face. “They’ve been very decent about it,” he answered.
Irving put his hand on Westby’s arm.
“Do you know why they’re so decent? It’s because you’ve cheered them up yourself. Who was the fellow, Westby, that said he didn’t care who might make his country’s laws if only he might write its songs?”
[Illustration: A SHADOW CROSSED WESTBY’S FACE]
“Oh—no—that’s got nothing to do with me.”
“You needn’t care who makes the touchdowns. Your job is to do something else. It’s no discredit to you if because of lack of training or adaptability, you can’t hang on to a ball at a critical moment. There are plenty of fellows who can do that.—I suppose you don’t see it yet yourself—but you know the message my brother sent you? I shall tell him that you got your chance to-day—and took it.”
“I don’t see how.”
“Well, I don’t know how you managed it exactly. But I could see when those fellows came upstairs just now that you stood better with them than you ever had done before. It must have been because you showed the right spirit—and I know by experience, Westby, that it’s awfully hard to show the right spirit when you’re down.”
There was silence for a few moments.
“I guess I’ve made it hard for you,” said Westby at last, in a low voice. “You’re different from what I thought you were.”
Irving’s low laugh of exultation sprang from the heart. “Maybe I am—and maybe you were right about me, too. A fellow changes. A month ago, I was wondering what use there could ever be in my studying law—trying to practise, mixing with men—when I couldn’t hold my own with a handful of boys. For some reason, I don’t feel that way any longer.—Well, that’s about all I wanted to say to you, Westby.” He stood up. “Good-night.”
Westby rose and shook hands. “Good-night, sir.”
He passed out and quietly closed the door. Irving stood at the window, gazing beyond the shadowy trees to the dim silver line of the pond, touched now by the moonlight. There was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” Irving called.
It was Westby again.
“Oh, Mr. Upton,” he said, “I meant to tell you—I heard at Mr. Barclay’s how the Freshman game came out; I wish, if you would, you’d send your brother my congratulations.”
“Thank you, I will.”
The door closed softly. Irving turned again and pressed his forehead against the window-pane with a smile. It was a smile not merely of satisfaction because he had won his way at last, though he was not indifferent to that; he was happy too because this night he felt he had come close to Westby.