All the city was football-mad, it seemed, for no sooner had the new-comers entered the restaurant than the diners rose to wave napkins or to cheer. Men stepped upon chairs and craned for a better sight of them; women raised their voices in eager questioning. A gentleman in evening dress pointed out the leader of the squad to his companions, explaining:
“That is Anthony—the big chap. He’s Darwin K. Anthony’s son. You’ve heard about the Anthony bill at Albany?”
“Yes, and I saw this fellow play football four years ago. Say! That was a game.”
“He’s a worthless sort of chap, isn’t he?” remarked one of the women, when the squad had disappeared up the stairs.
“Just a rich man’s son, that’s all. But he certainly could play football.”
“Didn’t I read that he had been sent to jail recently?”
“No doubt. He was given thirty days.”
“What! in prison?” questioned another, in a shocked voice.
“Only for speeding. It was his third offence, and his father let him take his medicine.”
“Old man Anthony doesn’t care for this sort of thing. He’s right, too. All this young fellow is good for is to spend money.”
Up in the banquet-hall, however, it was evident that Kirk Anthony was more highly esteemed by his mates than by the public at large. He was their hero, in fact, and in a way he deserved it. For three years before his graduation he had been the heart and sinew of the university team, and for the four years following he had coached them, preferring the life of an athletic trainer to the career his father had offered him. And he had done his chosen work well.
Only three weeks prior to the hard gruel of the great game the eleven had received a blow that had left its supporters dazed and despairing. There had been a scandal, of which the public had heard little and the students scarcely more, resulting in the expulsion of the five best players of the team. The crisis might have daunted the most resourceful of men, yet Anthony had proved equal to it. For twenty-one days he had labored like a real general, spending his nights alone with diagrams and little dummies on a miniature gridiron, his days in careful coaching. He had taken a huge, ungainly Nova Scotian lad named Ringold for centre; he had placed a square-jawed, tow-headed boy from Duluth in the line; he had selected a high-strung, unseasoned chap, who for two years had been eating his heart out on the side-lines, and made him into a quarter-back.
Then he had driven them all with the cruelty of a Cossack captain; and when at last the dusk of this November day had settled, new football history had been made. The world had seen a strange team snatch victory from defeat, and not one of all the thirty thousand onlookers but knew to whom the credit belonged. It had been a tremendous spectacle, and when the final whistle blew for the multitude to come roaring down across the field, the cohorts had paid homage to Kirk Anthony, the weary coach to whom they knew the honor belonged.