Fourth Down!

Fourth Down!

Author

Ralph Henry Barbour

About this book

"Fourth Down! is a new tale of the boys at Yardley, and not only football play but the development of character under stress are brought out with all the writer's usual graphic ability." -The Outlook

Contents (25)

CHAPTER I BACK TO SCHOOL
Currently reading
CHAPTER II NEW QUARTERS
CHAPTER III SID OFFERS ADVICE
CHAPTER IV G. W. TUBB
CHAPTER V WITH THE SECOND
CHAPTER VI SIGNALS
CHAPTER VII TOBY MAKES A CALL
CHAPTER VIII TUBB TRIES FOOTBALL
CHAPTER IX YARDLEY PLAYS GREENBURG
CHAPTER X TOBY EMPTIES HIS LOCKER
CHAPTER XI TOM FANNING, OPTIMIST
CHAPTER XII FIRST TEAM VS. SECOND
CHAPTER XIII TEAM-MATES FALL OUT
CHAPTER XIV TOBY AT QUARTER
CHAPTER XV THE “TOUGH BUNCH”
CHAPTER XVI TUBB WINS PROMOTION
CHAPTER XVII AN “ACCIDENT”
CHAPTER XVIII A QUARTER-BACK RUN
CHAPTER XIX ARNOLD HAS A THOUGHT
CHAPTER XX AN ENCOUNTER ON THE BEACH
CHAPTER XXI TUBB BARKS A KNUCKLE
CHAPTER XXII A VISIT TO THE OFFICE
CHAPTER XXIII TUBB ON THE TRAIL
CHAPTER XXIV FRICK IS CALLED AWAY
CHAPTER XXV FOURTH DOWN

CHAPTER I BACK TO SCHOOL

“We ought to be there in about twenty minutes,” observed Arnold Deering, glancing at his watch.

One of his companions in the day-coach tossed the magazine he had been idly glancing through, to the top of the pile of suitcases beside him, yawned widely, and nodded without enthusiasm.

“If nothing happens,” he agreed.

“What’s going to happen, you chump?”

“Nothing, I suppose. Only, something might. There might be an earthquake, or the train might jump the track, or——”

“Or you might talk sense, Frank! As for jumping the track, this old train couldn’t jump a crack in the floor! I guess you’re wishing something would happen so you wouldn’t have to go back.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Frank Lamson answered doubtfully. “I guess I don’t mind—much. School’s all right after a day or two. It’s getting into the swing, just at first, that’s hard.”

“In the interest of education,” proclaimed Arnold pompously, “I move that summer vacations be abolished.”

“Put it the other way around,” said Frank, “and I’ll second the motion. Joking aside, though, summer vacations are fine, but they certainly spoil a chap for hard work.” He shook his head dolefully. He was a heavily-built youth of seventeen, but the heaviness was that of bone and sinew rather than of fat. With regular features, dark hair and eyes and a healthy skin, he was undeniably good-looking, although the mouth somehow suggested a sort of lazy arrogance and led an observer to the conclusion that he was not invariably as amiable as at present. He was almost painfully correct as to attire.

“Work!” sighed Arnold. “Why introduce unpleasant subjects? Ever since I struck Yardley fellows have dinned it into me that this year is the toughest of all. ‘If you think Third Class is hard,’ they said, ‘just wait till you’re in Second!’ It doesn’t sound good to me, Frank!”

“Piffle! Fellows always talk that way. Even First Class fellows shake their heads and tell you they’re the hardest worked bunch in school, and any one with a grain of sense knows that the last year’s a perfect cinch. Anyway, you don’t need to worry. You’re starting clean. I’ve got a condition to work off, worse luck. I’m the one who ought to be sore.”

“Too bad,” said Arnold sympathetically. “Still, ‘Old Tige’s’ bark is worse than his bite, Frank. You’ll get clear all right.”

“Hope so.” Frank leaned across the piled-up luggage to look through the window. A fleeting glimpse of the sun-flecked surface of Long Island Sound met his vision, and he frowned, mentally contrasting the lazy, frolic-filled days of the passing summer with the duties drawing nearer every minute. “Light House Point,” he said, nodding. “Greenburg in ten minutes.”

“If nothing happens,” quoted Arnold, with a smile. Like the boy opposite him, he was seventeen years of age, and, like him, too, he was extremely well-dressed. But in Arnold Deering’s case the attire appeared to stop short of effort, or it may have been that he was less conscious of it. While it is fair to call Frank good-looking it is no exaggeration to say that Arnold was handsome. A straight nose under a broad forehead, deep brown eyes, a mouth showing good-temper, and a round chin, all went to make up a countenance extremely attractive. He wore his dark brown hair brushed straight back, a style that went well both with his face and with his height and slenderness. There was nothing effeminate about him, though. He was not what fellows contemptuously call a “pretty boy” and his slim frame was well-muscled and suggested the best of physical condition.

“Don’t think I’d mind if something did happen,” answered Frank, rather disconsolately, “so long as it put off the evil day.”

“Cheer up, old thing!” laughed Arnold. “To-morrow you’ll be as gay as a lark, won’t he, Toby?”

The third member of the party, who, next the window, had been occupied with a magazine for the last half-hour, turned a pair of very blue eyes toward the speaker and smiled. Although he had been following the story closely, the conversation of his companions had not been entirely lost to him, and Arnold’s question had reached him between the last word on page 19 and the continuation on an elusive page 134. “I’d never expect to see Frank as gay as a lark,” he replied readily. “If you had said as happy as a seagull, though——” He returned to the search for page 134.

“Seagull?” protested Arnold. “The silly things never are happy! They’re always crying and making a fuss.”

“Oh, they’re happy enough,” said the other, with a twinkle in his eyes, “but they don’t want to think so!”

Arnold laughed and Frank said, “You go to the dickens, Toby,” but grinned a little as he said it. There had been a time when he would have taken Toby Tucker’s jest not so amiably, but closer intimacy with that youth had rendered his dignity less tender.

“Toby’s got you sized up, Frank,” laughed Arnold. “You do like to grouch a bit, you know.”

“We all do, at times,” said Toby, comfortingly. He found the page he was seeking and settled back again. But Arnold plucked the magazine from his hands and tossed it to the opposite seat.

“We’re nearly in Greenburg, T. Tucker,” he said. “Sit up like a gentleman and talk to us.”

Toby looked reproachfully at his friend and regretfully at the magazine. Then he smiled. He had rather a remarkable smile, had Toby. It made you forget that his nose was too short, his chin almost aggressively square, his tanned face too liberally freckled, his hair undeniably red. It made him almost good-looking and eminently likable. Tobias Tucker’s smile was a valuable asset to him, although he didn’t know it.

“What shall I talk about?” he asked. “Want me to tell you a dreadfully funny story?”

“What’s it about?” demanded Arnold, suspiciously.

“About old Cap’n Gaines,” replied Toby, innocently. “He——”

Help!” cried the others with unflattering unanimity.

“If you ever try to tell that again, Toby,” added Arnold, very stern and very solemn, “we’ll——”

But what was to happen in such an event was never told, for what happened at that moment very effectually ended Arnold’s discourse. There was a terrific grinding of brakes, a loud hissing sound, and an irresistible tendency on the part of every one and everything in the day-coach to proceed hurriedly to the front door. Because of various obstructions none succeeded, but all did their best. Arnold landed in Frank’s lap and Toby draped himself over the piled-up luggage, his head hanging over the back of the seat ahead. A cloud of unsuspected dust filled the car as, with a series of emphatic and uncomfortable jerks, the train came to a standstill. To the accompaniment of a vocal confusion of cries, exclamations, and grunts, the occupants of the car disentangled themselves from each other or picked themselves from the floor.

“Get—off—me!” groaned Frank. “You’ve—broken—my neck!”

“What was it?” gasped Arnold, relieving the other of his unwelcome embrace. “Are we wrecked?”

“I am, anyway!” growled Frank. “Where’s my hat? Oh, thanks!” He accepted it from a dazed occupant of the seat ahead. Toby Tucker retired from his graceful position atop the suitcases and observed Arnold questioningly, his straw hat tilted down to the bridge of his nose. Arnold chuckled. “Guess it was Frank’s earthquake,” he said.

“Keep your places!” admonished a trainman, putting his head in the forward door. “Obstruction on the track! No danger!”

“Gee!” muttered Toby. “That was some stop, fellows!”

“It sure was!” agreed Frank emphatically, feeling doubtfully of his neck. “It nearly snapped my head off! And then Arn landed on me like a ton of bricks.”

“Let’s go see,” said Toby. “What’s this?” He raised a foot from which dangled Arnold’s hat. “I’m sorry. Sort of mussed, I’m afraid.”

Arnold took it, viewed it ruefully and put it on. “It’s all Frank’s fault,” he grumbled as he joined the exodus through the nearer door. “He insisted that something was going to happen, and it did!”

How near that something had come to being a catastrophe was revealed to them when they pushed their way through the throng at the head of the train. Not eighty feet distant from the pilot of the throbbing locomotive stood a lone box-car, its forward truck lodged against its rear. It was loaded and sealed and marked “Greenburg.” A curve in the track behind had hidden it from the fireman’s sight until there had remained just space in which to avert a collision.

“How do you suppose it got here?” asked Frank.

“Front truck got loose and the car broke its coupling, so they say,” volunteered a boy beside him.

“Hello, Billy,” greeted Frank. “You on the train? I didn’t see you. I suppose this will hold us up awhile, eh?”

“I thought they always had a caboose on the tail-end of a freight,” objected Arnold.

“I believe they do,” agreed Billy Temple, “but this car and some more were on a siding about a mile back and they were sort of switching ’em into the Greenburg yard. Hello, Tucker. What car were you fellows in?”

“Fourth, I guess,” answered Arnold. “If it hadn’t been for Frank, though, I’d have landed in the first when we stopped! Felt as if my spine was being pushed right through to the front of me!”

“Me too,” chuckled Temple. “There was an old codger in my car with a basket of eggs. He got on at that last stop we made. There wasn’t much room, so he kept the eggs in his lap. Then Mr. Engineer put the airbrakes on and—Bingo!”

“What happened?” demanded Arnold delightedly.

“Why, the old gentleman and the eggs went on top of a fat man in front. Talk about your omelets! Oh, boy!”

“Let’s go back and sit down,” suggested Toby when Temple’s narrative had been properly appreciated. “It’s too hot out here. And I suppose we won’t get started again for an hour.”

“More like two,” grumbled Frank. “They’ll have to send a wrecking train and lift that car out of the way. Rotten luck!”

“Hark to the plaintive wail of the seagull,” murmured Toby.

“That’s right, Frank,” Arnold chuckled. “Ten minutes ago you wanted something to happen to keep you from getting to Yardley, and now——”

“That’s all right,” answered Frank haughtily, “but it’s nearly four, and supper’s at six.”

“True, O Solomon! I get your viewpoint. There is much in what you say. Still, if we get moving again in an hour or so——”

“We might walk, if it wasn’t for the bags,” mused Toby. “It can’t be more than eight or nine miles.”

“Eight or nine miles!” moaned Arnold. “And on an empty stomach!”

“We-ell, I meant on the railroad,” said Toby demurely, “but if you prefer——”

“Wish we had a pack of cards,” said Frank gloomily as they returned to their car. “We might have a three-handed game of something. Or get Billy Temple in here.”

“I’m going to finish that story I was reading,” said Toby. “You two play.”

“Well, if we can find some cards,” began Arnold, leading the way to their seats. Then: “What’s the matter with the chap over there, Toby? Nose-bleed?” he asked.

Toby, following his friend’s gaze, saw a pale-faced, large-eyed boy of perhaps fifteen holding a crimson-stained handkerchief to his face. “Guess so,” said Toby. “Maybe he got bumped. Wonder if he knows how to stop it?”

“Do you?” Arnold asked, pushing by to his seat.

“Yes, I know four or five ways. Guess I’ll ask him.”

He left the others and walked back three seats to where the boy was hunched somewhat disconsolately beside an open window. He was a surprisingly unattractive chap, Toby thought, but maybe he couldn’t help that unwholesome white complexion. But he could help, Toby told himself a moment later, that very soiled collar he was wearing!

“Nose-bleed?” asked Toby smilingly.

The boy shook his head, looking up over the stained handkerchief with an expression of sullen suspicion in his staring brown eyes.

“What’s the trouble then?” Toby took the vacant seat. “Let me have a look, won’t you?”

After a second of hesitation the boy removed the handkerchief, revealing a short but deep cut on his upper lip. It was bleeding profusely. Toby clucked sympathetically. “How’d you get it?” he asked.

“I was getting a drink back there,” muttered the boy, “when the train stopped. It threw me against the arm of a seat, I guess. Anyway, first thing I knew I was on the floor.” His tone was resentful and his look seemed to hold Toby to blame for the accident.

“Too bad,” said the latter kindly. “Got another handkerchief with you?” The boy shook his head. “I’ll lend you one, then. I’ll get it and wash the cut well. You step back to the water tank.”

Toby returned to his seat and dragged his suitcase from the pile. “Fellow’s got a nasty cut on his lip,” he explained. “Fell down when the train slowed up and hit on something.”

“What are you going to do?” inquired Frank. “Operate on him?”

“Find a handkerchief for him.”

“Who is he? One of our chaps?” asked Arnold.

“I don’t know. He may be. Doesn’t look it. Get your enormous feet out of the way. I’ll be back in a sec.”

“If you want any one to administer the ether——” suggested Frank.

Toby laughed and joined his patient by the rear door. There he gave the wound a thorough washing, while the boy scowled and grunted. Then, seeing that the sides of the cut ought to be brought together, he left the other with a folded handkerchief pressed to the wound and made his way forward to the baggage car. When he returned he had a roll of surgeon’s tape and a wad of absorbent cotton. The boy protested in his sullen way against further repairs, but Toby overruled him. “You don’t want a nasty scar there,” he said cheerfully. “You hold this cotton there until I get the tape ready. That’s it. All right now. Hold steady, now. I’m not hurting you. There! Now we’ll roll this cotton in the handkerchief and you can stop the blood with it. I don’t think it will bleed much longer. Have you got far to go?”

“Wissining,” muttered the boy.

“Oh, do you live in Wissining?”

“No, I’m going to school there,” answered the other resentfully. “I thought maybe you were, too.”

“Why, yes, I am. You must be a new boy then.”

The other nodded. “I’ve never seen the rotten place,” he said.

“Really?” asked Toby rather coldly. “Well, I hope you’ll like it better than you think.”

The boy stared back in his sullen fashion. “Shan’t,” he muttered. Toby shrugged.

“That’s up to you, I guess.” He nodded curtly and moved away, feeling relieved at the parting. But the boy stopped his steps.

“Say, what’ll I do with this handkerchief?” he asked.

“Oh, throw it away, please,” said Toby.

If he had done so this story might have been different.