“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.”