Ralph Henry Barbour
Kendall Burtis has developed into a star player, when suddenly it is discovered that someone has turned traitor and sold the team's signals to Broadwood. Kendall is accused, and the outcome is a surprise to everyone.
“This way, everyone!”
Coach Payson sent the call to each end of the field and then, swinging his small blue megaphone in his hand, waited for the panting players to gather about him in front of the bench. They came running in from all parts of the gridiron, a motley gathering of football aspirants; seasoned veterans of last year’s Yardley Varsity, Second Team men, substitutes, new boys; big, little, fat, thin, all sizes and conditions. Andy Ryan, the little red-haired trainer, stood over his pile of blankets and his water pail, back of the side-line, and viewed the sixty-odd candidates with a pessimistic shake of his head. John Payson, turning at the moment, saw it and smiled.
“What’s the matter, Andy? Don’t they look good?” he asked.
“I’ve seen some funny bunches in my day,” replied the trainer, “but never anything like them!”
“That’s what you say every year,” scoffed Payson good-naturedly. “I guess this lot will average about the same.” He turned to the breathless fellows gathering about him and pulled a little red book from his pocket. “All right, now. First scrimmage to-day, fellows. First squad: Cousins, Plant, Fales, Girard, Merriwell, Stark, Metz, Holmes, Greene, Fayette, Marion. Second squad: Fox, Steger, Keene, Johnson, McKesson, Fenwick, Adler, Simms, Crandall, Burtis, Brinspool. First squad take the south goal and kick off to the second. Men not playing get into blankets. On the run now. We’ll have two ten-minute periods. Get a couple of fellows to take the chains, will you, Andy?”
The two teams trotted to their positions, Andy tossed a horn to Davis, the manager, and summoned two blue-blanketed figures from the bench to act as linesmen, and in a moment the ball was hurtling from Merriwell’s toe.
Behind the benches, scattered over the grand stand, a hundred or more watchers who, during the preliminary practice, had lolled comfortably on the sunny seats, sat up and gave their attention to the scrimmage. Simms gathered in the long kick and, behind a quickly-formed interference, ran the ball back a good twenty yards before the first squad smothered him. Murmurs of applause arose from the audience.
“That was a dandy run, wasn’t it?” observed Harry Merrow, who, seated beside Gerald Pennimore halfway up the stand, was eating peanuts as though his life depended on it. Gerald nodded.
“I wonder why Payson put Simms on the second and Holmes on the first,” he said. “Holmes only got into the Broadwood game last year for a few minutes at the end.”
“He played all through the Nordham game, though, didn’t he? I think he’s every bit as good as Simms.”
“He’s just as good a player maybe, Harry, but he isn’t half the general Al is. I see Burtis is playing right half on the second. I wonder if he will make the team this year. Of course he will get into the games now and then if only to kick goals, but I guess he’s got a lot of football to learn yet.”
“Gee, they ought to make him a present of his position on the First Team,” responded Harry, flicking a peanut shell at a group of boys below. “Any fellow who will go into a Broadwood game without any experience and win for us by a goal from the field ought to have anything he wants.”
“Well, I guess Payson will take him on all right. I hope so. I like Burtis. Do you know him?”
“I met him once in your room last Spring. It was the day of the baseball game with Broadwood. He seemed a quiet sort of chap.”
“Yes, he’s a bit shy at first,” Gerald chuckled, and then, in response to his friend’s look of inquiry, continued: “I’ll never forget the night last year he came into our room and told Dan quite seriously that he ‘would like to play on the football team, please.’ Harold Towne put him up to it. Burtis was a pretty green lad then.”
“Towne always was a pup,” remarked Harry cheerfully. “There he goes now!”
“Burtis; he’s got the ball. Made a peach of a catch and— Oh, good work, Burtis! Gee, Gerald, he must have made fifteen easily. Say, he can run with the ball, can’t he? Did you see him slip away from Fayette?”
“Yes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made good this year. Goodness knows we need a couple of half-backs! We’re going to miss Tom Roeder and Stearns and Hammel like anything.”
“We’re going to miss a whole lot of fellows. We’ll never have an end as good as Dan Vinton, nor a guard like Ridge. Did you hear Payson say at the meeting the other night that only once before since he’s been coaching have we had so few veterans to build the team around?”
“Yes. So, too, I guess. Simms and Merriwell are really the only members of last year’s team we have; Holmes was more of a second-string man than anything else. Still, there’s good material out there; Marion for full, Stark for tackle, two good quarters, Fayette and Crandall and Greene for halfs; we’ll get along, I guess.”
“I wonder what sort of a captain Merriwell will make,” mused Harry. “He’s a good player, but——”
“And a good fellow, and well liked, don’t you think? I don’t believe he’s the leader that Dan was, though.”
“I should say not! You must miss Dan a whole lot, Gerald.”
“It’s something fierce! Lonely’s no name for it! I had a letter from him yesterday. He’s out for the Yale Freshman Team, of course.”
“I dare say they’ll make him captain,” asserted Harry loyally.
But Gerald shook his head. “Not much chance of that, I guess. They made Alf Loring captain last year, and it isn’t likely they’d give the captaincy to Yardley fellows two years running. First’s going to score, Harry. Who’s playing center for them? Girard? He’s a whopping big brute, isn’t he? Pshaw! He’d better learn to pass back better than that. Blocked! Ball, you idiots! Who’s got it! First, I think. No, second. Who? Burtis? It does look like him, but—no, it’s—It is Burtis, for a fact! How the dickens did he manage to get around that end? If he doesn’t watch out Payson will have him on the First Team.”
“Then he’s not likely to watch out,” laughed Harry. “Time’s up.”
They watched the players return to the bench and don their blankets while Andy ladled out the water sparingly. Payson studied his memorandum book, talking the while with Percy Davis, the manager. Captain Merriwell, trailing his blanket behind him, joined them. Then the coach turned to the line of players.
“All right, Plant, Girard, Stark, Marion, Steger, Johnson, McKesson, Fenwick and Brinspool,” he called. “Once around the field on the trot and run in. And don’t forget to weigh.”
Nine blankets were tossed aside and the released players started their jog around the side-lines. Mr. Payson filled their places in the line-up, and a few minutes later the second half of the scrimmage began. Up on the stand, Harry Merrow, having finished the last of the peanuts, blew up the bag and demolished it with a loud report that made the audience jump in their seats. When his amusement had subsided he turned to Gerald again.
“I wish I’d gone in for football,” he sighed.
“You’re too light, you silly chump,” replied Gerald. “Besides, you can’t do cross-country work and play football. That’s what kept me out of football; that and the fact that Dan wouldn’t let me on!”
“When are we going to start work?” asked Harry.
“In about two weeks. Andy wants the weather to get a bit colder. Where did you finish last year? Eighth, wasn’t it?”
“Ninth. Holder beat me out at the line. We ought to have an easy time with Broadwood this year, Gerald. Most of their best men last year were seniors.”
“I hope not. I don’t want any runaway race. There’s no fun in that. Look, second’s going to try a goal from field. There goes Burtis back. I hope he makes it.”
“Where is it? About the twenty yards? He ought to make it, if they don’t get through on him. There it goes! Over, wasn’t it?”
“I think so, but it was pretty far to the left. Yes, it’s a goal. That chap’s playing half the game for the second squad to-day. I’ll bet they’ll have him in the first to-morrow.”
“I’ll bet they won’t.”
“Because to-morrow’s Sunday,” replied Harry with a chuckle. Gerald pulled Harry’s cap over his face, rumpled his hair and ran an elbow into his ribs.
“You’re a smart little joker, aren’t you?” he laughed. “Sit up and watch the kick-off; and behave yourself; or, as Ned Tooker used to say, hebave yourself.”
“He was a silly ass,” said Harry, smoothing his hair and adjusting his cap.
“Ned? Don’t you believe it, Harry. He was a dandy, Ned was. I’ll bet he has a better time than any other three fellows I know. That’s a punk kick-off. Fenwick’s got it. Go it, you slowpoke! They’ve got him. He ran the wrong way, the chump. Funny how easy it is to play the game from the grand stand, Harry.”
“Yes, I guess you and I would do some brilliant little stunts if we had to go out there,” agreed Harry, nodding his head toward the field. “If I had the ball and one of those big chaps like Girard came at me I’d drop it like a hot potato and never stop running until I was in 20 Whitson with the door locked behind me! Oh, I’d be a brave little football player!”
“Every man to his trade,” laughed Gerald. “Your trade—and mine—is running, Harry.”
“That’s so. Then I guess I’d get to my room ahead of Girard, wouldn’t I? Hello, time’s up. Let’s get back. I’m getting goose-flesh all over me. It certainly gets cold when the sun quits business. Did you have a good time this summer?”
“Dandy! Dad and I went across for two months; England, France, Switzerland, Holland, Germany and a little bit of Italy. It was great.”
“It must have been,” sighed Harry. “Wish my father owned all the steamship lines in the world! I spent the summer down on the Jersey coast with the mosquitoes. Had a good time, though. Used to get into my bathing suit at eleven and keep it on until ’most dinner time. You ought to see my back. It’s like—like mahogany.”
“Your face is bad enough. I didn’t know you that day you yelled to me from the window. Thought you were a colored gentleman!”
They made their way down the stand and on to the field. Ahead of them the players, their blankets flapping grotesquely behind them, were racing up the path toward the gymnasium. Two or three, however, still lingered where coach, manager and trainer were in consultation. As Gerald and Harry reached the end of the field, one of these passed them at a trot, turned to look and stopped.
“Hello, Pennimore,” he said. “I guess you remember me, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, Burtis. Glad to see you again. How are you?” They shook hands. “You know Merrow?”
“I—think so. We met last year, didn’t we?” asked Kendall Burtis, as he shook hands again. Harry said yes, and Gerald asked:
“Are you in Clarke again this year, Burtis?”
“Yes, same place. I’m alone so far. My roommate, Towne, hasn’t shown up yet.”
“That so? What’s the matter with him?” asked Gerald as they went on.
“I don’t know. I asked at the Office the other day and the secretary there said they were expecting him.”
“It would be a terrible loss to the school if he didn’t come back,” observed Gerald gravely. Kendall shot a glance at him and smiled.
“Hope he stays away,” said Harry. “You played some football to-day, Burtis.”
“Much obliged. I had pretty good luck.”
“Luck didn’t kick that goal, did it?” laughed Gerald.
“Well, there’s always a lot of luck in trying for goal,” replied Kendall seriously. “Sometimes, just when you’re getting the ball away something happens, like a forward breaking through, and you get sort of rattled. Then there’s the pass, too. If that doesn’t come right you’re likely to miss. There’s a lot of luck in it. Well, I must be getting on. Glad to have seen you again, Pennimore. You, too, Merrow.”
“Thanks. What are you doing this evening, Burtis? Mind if I drop in for a minute?”
“I wish you would. I haven’t anything to do. I—I’ll look for you.” He nodded and trotted ahead.
“Funny about him,” mused Harry. “He’s as homely as a mud-fence until he smiles, and then blessed if he isn’t almost good-looking! What do you know about that, old Gerald?”