The Spirit of the School

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The Spirit of the School


Ralph Henry Barbour

About this book

Ralph Henry Barbour has been pleasing young men and adults with stories of football and sports for years. Here is "The Spirit of The School" for his fans.

Contents (15)

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“It’s all well enough for you to sit there and grin like a gargle.”

“Gargoyle is what you mean, my boy!”

“Well, gargoyle,” continued Bert Middleton. “What’s the difference? Of course, it’s easy enough for you to laugh about it; it isn’t your funeral; but I guess if you’d had all your plans made up only to have them knocked higher than a kite at the last minute——”

“I know,” said Harry Folsom soothingly. “It’s rotten mean luck. I’d have told the doctor that I wouldn’t do it.”

“But it wasn’t his fault, you see. It’s dad that’s to blame for the whole business. You see, it was this way. The Danas used to live up in Feltonville when I was a kid, and dad and Mr. Dana were second cousins or something, and were sort of partners in a sawmill and one or two things like that. Hansel Dana was about my age, maybe a year younger, and we used to play together sometimes. But his mother used to take him away on visits in the summer, and so we didn’t get very chummy. The fact is I never cared much for him. He was sort of namby-pamby, and used to read kid’s books most all the time. Mr. Dana died when I was about twelve, and Mrs. Dana and Hansel went out to Ohio to live with relatives. Then this summer dad gets a letter from her saying that she wants to send Hansel to a good school in the East, and asking his advice. And nothing would do for dad but that the little beggar must come here to Beechcroft and room with me! Did you ever hear of such luck? And Larry Royle and I had it all fixed to take that dandy big suite in Weeks. Of course that wouldn’t do, for dad says I’ve got to sort of look after the kid. And as his mother hasn’t much money, why, we have to room up here on the top floor of Prince with the grinds and the rest of the queer ones. Look at this hole! Isn’t it the limit? One bedroom, about the size of a pill box, dirty wall paper, a rag of a carpet, and a fireplace that I just bet won’t do a thing but smoke us out!”

“Oh, I don’t know, Bert. I think the place looks mighty swell with all your pictures and truck around. The carpet isn’t much, as you say, but then that’s all the better; you won’t have to be careful about spilling things on it. And maybe What’s-his-name will turn out all right.”

“A regular farmer, I’ll bet! They live in Davis City, Ohio, and I never heard of the place before. He’s been going to some sort of a two-cent academy out there, and now he’s got it into his head that he can enter the third class here. If he makes the second he’ll be doing well.”

“You say he plays football?”

“That’s what dad says; says he was captain of his team last year. I can just see the team, can’t you? And I dare say he’ll expect me to get him a place on the eleven here; maybe he expects to be captain again!”

“Oh, well,” said Harry, smiling at his friend’s woe-begone countenance, “perhaps it won’t be as bad as that. And if he’s played football at all we ought to be glad to get him. We haven’t so much new material in sight this fall that we can afford to be particular. I really think, though, you ought to have gone to the station to meet him, Bert.”

“I was busy putting up pictures,” answered Bert grumpily. “If he can’t find his way from the station up here he’d better go back where he came from.”

“I can see where little—say, what the dickens is his name, anyway?”


“Where’d he get it? Well, I can see where he’s going to have the time of his young life when he gets here; you’re so sweet-tempered, old man!” And Harry Folsom leaned back among the pillows of the window seat and laughed. Bert, sprawling in a dilapidated Morris chair, observed him gloomily.

What he saw was a rather plain-looking lad of seventeen, of medium height and weight, with light hair and gray eyes and an expression of good nature that was seldom absent. Bert had never seen Harry angry; in fact, his good nature was proverbial throughout Beechcroft Academy. He was manager of the football team, and was just the fellow for the office. He possessed a good deal of executive ability, a fair share of common sense, and a faculty for keeping his head and his temper under the greatest provocation.

He differed widely in that respect from his host. Bert Middleton had a temper, and anyone who was with him for any length of time was pretty certain to find it out. Unfortunately, with the temper went a stubbornness that made matters worse.

Except with a few fellows who, in spite of these failings, had stuck to him long enough to discover his better qualities, he was not very popular. His election the preceding year to the captaincy of the football team had come to him as a tribute to his playing ability and not his popularity. He was strikingly good looking, with very black hair and snapping black eyes, and in spite of the fact that he was but eighteen years old, he tipped the gymnasium scales at 170 and stood six feet all but an inch. He was generally acknowledged to have won a place on the All-Preparatory Football Team of the year before, and was without doubt the best full back Beechcroft Academy had ever had. Just at present his expression was not particularly attractive, his forehead being wrinkled into a network of frowns and his mouth drawn down with discontent. Both boys were in their senior year members of what at Beechcroft is called the Fourth Class.

The room in which the two boys were sitting on the afternoon of the day preceding the beginning of the fall term was, in spite of Bert’s grumblings, pleasant and homelike. It was well furnished, and if the walls were stained and cracked, the dozens of pictures which Bert had just finished hanging concealed the fact. Through the double window, which formed a recess for the comfortable window seat, the mid-afternoon sun was pouring in, and with it came a fresh breeze and scented from the beech forest which sloped away up the hill behind the school buildings. To the right of the window an open door showed the white unpapered walls of the small bedroom. In the center of the room, beneath an antiquated chandelier, stood a green-topped study table, at the present moment piled high with books awaiting installation in the two low cases which flanked the fireplace. Had you lifted the brown corduroy cushion from the window seat you would have discovered the bench beneath to be engraved quite as completely and almost as intricately as any Egyptian monolith. For Prince Hall is well over eighty years old, and succeeding generations of students have left their marks incised with pocket-knife or hot poker on the woodwork of the rooms.

The residents of Prince Hall professed to be, and probably were, proud of the antiquity and associations of their building. But they couldn’t help being sometimes envious of the modern improvements, large, well-lighted rooms, and up-to-date appointments of the rival dormitory, Weeks Hall. Weeks stands at the other side of the academy grounds, with the Academy Hall between it and Prince. The three buildings form a row in front of which the well-kept gravel driveway passes ere it disappears to circle the ivy-covered red brick walls of the laboratory at the rear. Across the drive stand the gymnasium and library, the former a modern brick and sandstone structure more ornate than beautiful, and the latter a granite specimen of the unlovely architecture of fifty years ago, charitably draped in a gown of green ivy leaves, which in a measure hides its rude angles.

Beyond the gymnasium and library the ground slopes in a gentle terrace to a broad meadow, which, known as the Green, is the academy’s athletic field, and has two wooden stands in various stages of disrepair. Then comes the winding country road which leads to the village of Bevan Hills a half mile or more away.

Beechcroft is encompassed on three sides by parklike forest, in which the smooth gray boles of beech trees are everywhere visible. As yet their pale-yellow leaves still rustled on the branches, for in the Massachusetts hills the heavy frosts do not come until October at the earliest. To-day, a Wednesday in the last week of September, summer still held sway, and the thick woods were full of golden sunlight and green gloom.

When, having recovered from his mirth, Harry Folsom raised himself and looked out of the open window, he saw spread before him a sunlit vista of yellowing fields, with here and there a white farmhouse amid a green orchard. But the scene was a familiar one, and his gaze passed it by to the village road along which was rattling a barge filled with returning students.

“There’s a load of ’em coming around now,” announced Harry. “I think I saw Larry out front with the driver.”

“That’s where he would be naturally,” answered Bert, some of the despondency clearing from his face. “For years he’s been trying to get Gibbs to let him drive the nags. Some day he will do it, and somebody will get killed. I suppose Hansel was on that load; he wrote he was coming on the 4.12.”

“I guess I’ll have to stay and see this Fidus Achates of yours, Bert.”

“Fidus Achates!” exploded the other. “Fidus poppycock! I wish he was—was——”

“Careful, now!” cautioned Harry with a grin.

“I wish he was at home,” ended Bert with a gulp. “I thought I was going to have a good time this year—a decent room with a fellow I liked, not many studies, plenty of time for football and hockey, and—and—now look at me! Stuck up here among the pills with a silly little runt of a country kid for roommate! Oh, a nice cheerful fourth year I shall have!”

“Oh, quit your yowling!” said the other good-naturedly. “You don’t know what Dana will be like. For my part I’m ready to like him, if only because you’ve run him down so. I dare say he will prove to be a very decent sort.”

“Oh, decent enough, maybe; but if he’s anything like what he used to be, he’ll just sit here and read his old books all day and make me nervous. Maybe he’ll turn out a grind!”

“But he can’t be so awfully fond of staying indoors and reading if he was captain of his football team.”

“Shucks! I’ll bet I know what sort of football he plays! His team probably averaged a hundred and twenty pounds and played back of the village livery stable. I’m going to have the dustpan ready to sweep up the hayseed when he takes his hat off!”

“Well, he will be here in a minute,” laughed Harry, “and then we’ll know the worst. If he’s as bad as you picture him, I don’t blame you for being——”

He was interrupted by a knock at the door. The two exchanged questioning glances, and then Bert called “Come in!” The door swung open and a tall, well-built youth entered, set down a suit case, and looked inquiringly from Harry to Bert.

“I’m looking for Bert Middleton,” he announced, “and I guess you’re the chap, aren’t you?” He looked smilingly at Bert, who had arisen from his chair and was observing the newcomer with a puzzled frown.

“‘I am looking for Bert Middleton,’ he announced.”

“Why, yes; but—you—look here, you’re not Hansel Dana, are you?”

“Yes”—the two shook hands—“I suppose I’ve changed some since you saw me last. So have you, for that matter. You’re heaps bigger, but that black hair of yours looks just the same.”

“Yes, you have changed,” answered Bert. “I’m glad to see you.” He turned to where Harry was smiling broadly at his amazement. “This is Mr. Folsom, Hansel; Mr. Dana. We—we were just speaking of you when you knocked.”

“Yes,” said Harry, shaking hands heartily, “Bert was telling me how glad he was you and he were to be together.” He shot a malicious glance at Bert and was rewarded with a scowl. The newcomer looked shrewdly at Bert’s innocent countenance and smiled a little.

“Rather a pleasant room we’ve got, Bert,” he observed.

“Oh, fair for a cheap one.”

“Is this a cheap one?” asked the other, opening his eyes. “I thought the rent was sixty dollars.”

“So it is. Over in Weeks some of the suites are two hundred.”

“Hum; things come high here, don’t they? Is this your furniture?”

“Yes, most of it; one or two things are rented.”

“I didn’t bring much. I didn’t quite know what was wanted. But I suppose I can get things here, can’t I? I’d like to do my share.”

“You can’t get much here,” answered Harry. “You’ll have to go to Boston, I guess. But I don’t see that you two need much else.”

“We need another easy chair,” said Bert, “and a rug or two wouldn’t look bad. If we’ve got to live in a garret like this we might as well be as comfortable as we can.”

The newcomer’s eyes narrowed a trifle.

“All right,” he answered quietly. “I’ll see what I can do.” He went to the window and stood there a moment looking out over the sunlit landscape and peeling off a pair of very proper tan gloves. Harry and Bert exchanged glances. Presently he turned and, tossing his gloves aside, sat down on the window seat, took one knee into his hands, and looked about the room with frank interest.

Hansel Dana was seventeen years old, a tall, clean-cut boy with very little superfluous flesh beneath his neat, well-fitting gray suit. Despite his height he looked and was heavy. His hair was brown and so were his eyes, and the latter had a way of looking straight at you when he talked that was a little bit disconcerting at first. Harry Folsom, who, being quite out of the running himself, had a deep liking for good looks, mentally dubbed Dana the handsomest fellow in school. His nose was straight, his mouth firm without being thin, and his chin was square and aggressive. There was a liberal dash of healthy color in each cheek. As for his attire, there was little to confirm Bert’s prophecies. He wore a white negligee shirt, a suit of gray flannel, low tan shoes, and when he had entered had worn a gray cloth cap. The clothes were not expensive, but, as Harry ruefully acknowledged to himself, looked better than did his own garments, for which he had paid possibly three times as much. Altogether Hansel Dana made a very presentable appearance. And his manner, a pleasing mixture of self-possessed ease and modesty, was not the least of his charm.

“He looks to me,” mused Harry, “like a chap who knows his own mind and won’t be afraid to let somebody else know it. And if he can play football the way he took his gloves off and set that bag down, I fancy there’ll be something doing. Also, unless I’m much mistaken, 22 Prince Hall has got a new boss!” And he smiled to himself at the idea of Bert Middleton knuckling under to anybody.

Hansel had plenty of questions to ask, and he asked them. And the others supplied the answers, Bert becoming quite genial under his new roommate’s implied deference to his experience and knowledge. Harry, who fancied he could see a rude awakening ahead for Bert, enjoyed himself hugely. Presently the talk worked around to football, as it inevitably will where two or more boys are gathered together when frost is in the air, and Bert inquired whether Hansel played.

“Yes, I’ve played some,” was the answer. “We had a team out home at the academy. They made me captain last year. We had pretty good fun.”

“Did you win your big game?” asked Harry.

“No,” Hansel answered carelessly. “We lost that; lost plenty of others, too, for that matter. But we were pretty light, had no coach, and had to pay our own traveling expenses besides; that made it difficult, for lots of the fellows couldn’t afford to pay fares, and so when we went away from home it was mighty hard work to get a full eleven to go along.”

Bert glanced across at Harry with a “I-told-you-so” expression.

“Yes, that must have made it hard,” laughed Harry. “Well, you must come out for the team to-morrow. By the way, where did you play?”

“Last year at left end; before that at right half.”

“That’s bad,” said Bert. “We’re pretty well fixed in the back field and we’ve got slathers of candidates for the end positions. What we need are men for the line. But I guess you’d be too light there. What’s your weight?”

“A hundred and fifty-eight when I’m in shape.”

“Well, maybe you’d have chance at tackle,” said Bert dubiously.

“Don’t believe I could make good there,” answered Hansel. “I guess it’s end or nothing in my case. By the way, when do we get supper?”

“Six,” answered Harry.

“I’m starved. Didn’t get any lunch in Boston because my train from the West was over an hour late. Well, I guess I can hold out another hour.”

“You’re going into the third class, Bert says,” said Harry.

“Yes, if I can pass the exams, and I guess I can. Latin’s the only thing I’m afraid of.”

“Well, get Bert to bring you over to my room to-night. You take the exams to-morrow, you know, and maybe we can give you a few pointers. Bring him over, Bert, will you? I’ll see you in dining hall, maybe. I want to run across and see whether Larry has turned up. Did you notice a big fellow on the front seat coming up from the station?”

“Yes, weighed about a thousand pounds. Who is he?” asked Hansel.

“Larry Royle. He’s in your class. He lives in the big house across the road. His dad owns pretty near everything around here. Larry’s our center, and he’s a crackajack, too. I’ll run over a minute. By the way, Bert, shall I find that dustpan for you?”

And Harry disappeared beyond the door, laughing.

“He seems a nice sort,” said Hansel warmly.

“He is; he’s a mighty good chap. He’s manager of the football team, by the way, and if you want any favors you’d better stand in with him. You know, I dare say, that I’m captain this year?”

“Yes, I think your father said something about it in one of his letters.”

“Yes; well, of course, I’ll do what I can for you if you want to make the team, but—there’s a bunch of pretty swift players here, and so—if you shouldn’t make it, you know, you mustn’t be disappointed. Of course, I can’t show any favoritism; you understand that; and——”

“Oh, that’s all right!” interrupted Hansel with a smile. “Don’t you bother about me; I’ll look out for myself, Bert. If I thought there was any likelihood of you showing favoritism I wouldn’t go out. But I don’t believe there’s any danger—at least, not unless you’ve changed a whole lot. Perhaps you don’t recall the fact, Bert, but you used to make life pretty uncomfortable for me when we were kids back there in Feltonville. I suppose you didn’t mean anything particularly, but I haven’t quite forgotten it.”

“Pshaw!” said Bert uncomfortably. “You were such a little sissy——”

“And I don’t suppose,” the other continued calmly, “that you were overpleased to have me for a roommate. For that matter, neither was I. But there wasn’t any help for it, and so I thought we’d make the best of it. What can’t be cured, you know, must be endured. I dare say we’ll get on pretty well together. At least, we know where we stand. You’ll find me pretty decent as long as you behave yourself. But”—Hansel arose and went toward the bedroom—“but none of those old tricks of yours, Bert.”

He disappeared, and Bert, sitting fairly open-mouthed and speechless with amazement, heard him pouring water into the bowl.