Dave Porter and His Rivals/Chapter 9

CHAPTER IX


THE FOOTBALL MEETING


In a few days Dave felt as much at home as ever. Nearly all of his old friends had returned to Oak Hall, and dormitories Nos. 11 and 12 were filled with as bright a crowd of lads as could well be found anywhere. In the number were Gus Plum and Chip Macklin, but the former was no longer the bully as of old, and the latter had lost his toadying manner, and was quite manly, and the other students treated them as if all had always been the best of friends.

It did Dave's heart good to see the change in Plum, and he was likewise pleased over the different way in which Macklin acted.

"I never thought it was in Gus and Chip," he said, privately, to Roger. "It shows what a fellow can do if he sets his mind to it."

"It's to your credit as much as to their own," declared the senator's son. "I don't believe Gus would have reformed if you hadn't braced him up."

"I wish I could reform Nat Poole."

"You'll never do it, Dave but you may scare him into behaving himself."

"Have you met Guy Frapley, Roger—I mean to talk to?"

"Yes, in the gym., where Phil and I were practicing with the Indian clubs."

"What do you think of him?"

"I think he is fairly aching to become the leader of the school. He was leader at Laverport, and it breaks his heart to play second fiddle to anybody here. He and Nat are as thick as two peas. They tell me he is a great football player, so I suppose he will try to run the eleven—if the fellows will let him."

"I don't think the old players will let a new crowd run our team."

"The trouble is, some of the old players are gone, and the new crowd may count up the largest number of votes. In that case they'll be able to run things to suit themselves."

Dave had settled down to his studies in earnest, for that winter he wished to make an extra good record for himself. He loved sports, but as he grew older he realized that he was at Oak Hall more for a mental than a physical training.

"When my time comes, I shall have a good many business interests to look after," was the way he expressed himself to Phil, who joked him about "boning like a cart horse," "and I know if I haven't the education I'll be at the mercy of anybody who wishes to take advantage of my ignorance."

"Well, you are not going to give up football, are you, Dave?" questioned the shipowner's son.

"Not if they want me on the eleven."

"Well, that depends. We have a meeting Monday afternoon, in the gym."

Dave had noticed a good many whispered conversations taking place between some of the old students and all of the new ones, and he had wondered what was going on. A hint was dropped that the football meeting would "wake things up," whatever that might mean.

"I think I know what is in the wind," said Gus Plum to Dave during a recess on Monday. "Nat Poole and Guy Frapley came to me last night and they wanted me to pledge myself to support Frapley for captain of the eleven."

"Well, they had a right to do that, Gus."

"I told them I wouldn't do it. They said if I didn't I'd get left. I told 'em that wouldn't hurt me very much, because I didn't care for playing anyway."

"I see," answered Dave, thoughtfully.

He at once sought out Roger, Phil, and Sam Day,—those who had loved to play football in the past, and who had hoped to be on the eleven the present season—and talked the matter over with them. Then the shipowner's son made a quiet canvass among all those interested in football.

"Plum is right," he declared later. "Frapley, aided by Nat Poole and his cronies, is going to carry matters with a high hand."

"It's an outrage!" cried Sam. "A stranger running the Oak Hall eleven! I shall protest!"

"It won't do any good—if Frapley gets the votes," answered Roger. "Especially if he is a good player, and they say he is."

The news that there was going to be a lively time drew a large crowd to the meeting in the gymnasium. This was called to order by the former manager of the eleven, and a call was issued for nominations for a new manager.

"I nominate John Rand!" cried Nat Poole, mentioning one of the students from Laverport.

"Second the nomination!" added Guy Frapley, promptly.

"I nominate Henry Fordham," said Roger, putting up one of the old students, who did not play, but who was a good general manager, and a youth well liked by his classmates.

Dave seconded Roger's nomination, and as there were no other names submitted, the nominations were declared closed.

"Mr. Chairman, I'd like to say a few words before we hold an election—I mean, before we vote," said Sam Day, mounting a chair.

"Oh, dry up, and let us cast out ballots!" muttered Nat Poole.

"I wish to speak in favor of Henry Fordham, whom all old students of Oak Hall know so well," continued Sam. "He knows——"

"Vote! vote! Let us vote!" called out several new students loudly, and it was seen that they were urged on by Guy Frapley.

In a moment half a dozen students were speaking at once, and it took several minutes for the chairman of the meeting to restore silence. Then Sam was allowed to make a short speech and he was followed by Dave, both speaking in favor of Fordham. Then a new student spoke in favor of Rand, and then the voting began.

The result was a painful surprise for Fordham, and equally painful to Dave and his chums. So well had Nat Poole, Guy Frapley, and their cohorts laid their plans that John Rand was elected manager of the coming eleven by a majority of five votes.

"It is all up with our crowd!" murmured Roger to Dave, when the result was announced. "That crowd has got votes enough to ride over us roughshod, and it is going to do it."

And the senator's son was right, as later events speedily proved. The new football team, made up of a regular eleven and five substitutes, counted but six old Oak Hall players. Dave, Roger, Phil, and their close chums were utterly ignored. Guy Frapley was chosen captain and quarter-back, and Nat Poole was made full-back. It is needless to say that some of the old players, who had worked so hard in the past to make Oak Hall victorious, left the meeting in disgust.

"This is the worst I was ever up against!" murmured Roger. "Talk about ingratitude! And just think that once Phil nearly lost his life to help us win!"

"And think of how hard Dave and you worked," put in a sympathizer. "It's a burning shame, that's what it is."

"Well, there is one satisfaction," said Dave, as calmly as he could, although he was as depressed as any one. "It is on their shoulders now to make good. We haven't anything on that score to worry about."

"I'll tell you what let's do!" cried Phil. "We'll organize a scrub eleven, and wax 'em out of their shoes!"

"I don't believe they'll play you—they are afraid," said Buster.

"Never mind, then we'll play somebody else. We can challenge them, anyway. If they are afraid of us we want the whole school to know it."

Phil's idea met with considerable favor, and he easily persuaded Dave, Roger, Sam, Gus Plum, and a number of others to join his scrub eleven, which was named the Old Guard. Phil was manager as well as captain, and played right half-back, while Dave was quarter-back, and Roger was center. The eleven went into practice with as much vigor as if they were training for some championship games.

As had been anticipated, the regular eleven tried to ignore the Old Guard. When a challenge to play was issued, John Rand sent back word that he could fix up his own scrub eleven without any help from outsiders. His scrub was made up of freshmen and, of course, the regular team beat them with ease.

"Never mind—they are afraid of us—and we'll let everybody know it," declared Roger. And then the challenge from the Old Guard to the regular eleven was posted up in the gymnasium, where all might see it. It was torn down over night, but a new copy was put up by the following noon.

As was to be expected, the challenge created much talk, and Phil and Frapley almost came to blows about it. Phil and his chums were accused of trying to break up the good feeling of the school in general, and, in return, the shipowner's son very bluntly told the new captain of the school eleven that he would lead Oak Hall to defeat.

"It's time enough to talk like that after we are beaten," declared Guy Frapley, grimly. Then it was announced that the regular Oak Hall football eleven would play the opening game of the season against an eleven from Lemington on a Saturday afternoon, the contest to take place on the Lemington Athletic Grounds.

"They ought to be waxed good and proper!" said Chip Macklin.

"Who?" asked Dave.

"Our eleven, Dave. Oh, I know what you will say—that that isn't the true school spirit and all that—but just the same, Poole and Frapley and that bunch don't deserve to win."

"I've got half a notion not to go to the game," declared Sam.

"I am going," answered Dave. "I don't like that crowd, and I don't think we were treated fairly. Just the same, for the honor of Oak Hall, I am going to the game and root for our side."

"The same old Dave!" murmured Roger, in admiration. "Well, if you're going I am going too."

Lemington was situated several miles up the river, and while some of the boys decided to go to that town by the carryall and on their bicycles and motor-cycles, others decided to go up in boats.

As my old readers know, Nat Poole was the owner of a good-sized motor-boat, a craft he had had stored in the boathouse since the last summer. In this boat the dudish student frequently went for a cruise up and down the river, taking his cronies along. The fact that he owned the craft and could give them a ride, made Nat quite popular with some of the students.

"I'll take the eleven up to Lemington in my motor-boat," said Nat to the manager. "It will be a fine sail, if the weather is good." And so it was arranged.

As the weather remained warm, Dave and his chums often went out on the river for a row, and one afternoon they rowed as far as Bush Island, about two miles away. On the island were some chestnut trees, and the boys walked over to see if the nuts were fit to gather.

"I see some other fellows here!" cried Roger, and pointed to some boys in military uniforms some distance away.

"They must be fellows from Rockville Academy," answered Dave. "I didn't think they'd come as far as this after school hours."

"Well, I suppose they have as much right here as we have," was Phil's comment.

They passed on, and presently lost sight of the other crowd. Then, quarter of an hour later, they came out on the island shore, to see the other lads in a rowboat, just getting ready to leave the place.

"Why, there are Link Merwell and Nick Jasniff!" exclaimed Roger.

"Right you are," answered Dave. Then he gave another look. "Where is our boat?" he questioned, quickly.

All looked around and saw that their rowboat was missing.

"They must have taken it," cried Phil. He raised his voice: "I say, Merwell! Jasniff! Stop, I want to talk to you!"

"Not much!" called back Nick Jasniff.

"We don't want to talk to you," answered Link Merwell.

"What have you done with out boat?" questioned Roger.

"That's for you to find out!" returned Nick Jasniff. "Ta ta! Hope you have a nice time getting back to Oak Hall!"

And then he and Link Merwell and their companions took up their oars and rowed swiftly away from Bush Island.