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CHAPTER II

THE LEFT TACKLE

EDWARD’S nature was not one that could remain long depressed over the thought that an injustice was being done him. He found too much that was new and exhilarating to occupy his mind. The very achievements which had brought down upon him the censorious comments of some of the older boys had made him quite a hero in his own form. The old boys of the Fourth Form, like Lawrence, became his aggressive champions against the charge of freshness.

“Go on!” Lawrence said one day to a group of Fifth Formers, friends of his, who had been disparaging “Pishaw, P—shaw,” which was their name for Edward. Go on! You’re jealous. Crashaw’s a bigger man than you’ve got, and you know it. There is n’t a near athlete in your whole form. You take it as a personal insult if anybody gets out and does things better than you can; you think then that he’s fresh.’’

“That is n’t why we think you’re fresh, Laurie,” retorted Tweed, one of the Fifth Formers.

“Before we’d let a new kid—a new kid that ought to have gone to St. John’s, too—come into our form and boss us round!” virtuously observed Horne, another of the Fifth Formers. “I’m glad to think that we have some self-respect.”

“I’m surprised to think you have,” said Lawrence.

They made a dash for him, but he turned and ran, and took refuge from them in the library.

Blanchard, captain of the Pythians, and Durant, captain of the Corinthians, called out the football candidates on the same day. After the practice Blanchard told Edward that he was promising—especially as it was a bad year for tackles. Durant’s the only first-class tackle in the School,” he said. “I was wondering whom I could put opposite him. Maybe you’ll have to be the man.”

“Of course I’ll be awfully glad if I can make the eleven,” said Edward. “I’d rather play against anybody than Durant, though.”

“Most fellows would. He’s the best man the Corinthians have.”

“I was n’t thinking of that. He does n’t like me. I guess it won’t be very pleasant.”

“Why does n’t he like you?”

Edward told of the altercation which they had had in the baseball game.

“Oh, that’s nothing,” Blanchard said. “Durant’s quick-tempered—terribly quick-tempered.”

“He thinks I’m fresh, I guess,” Edward answered. “He does n’t care for me anyhow; I know that. When we meet he nods in a way that makes me tired. If a fellow can’t smile a little when he nods, I’d rather have him cut me altogether.”

“Well,” Blanchard laughed, “you could n’t expect Durant to care for you very much, could you?”

At that there was the questioning, hurt look in Edward’s eyes that always amused and touched the older boy.

“I don’t see why he should hate me,” said Edward.

“He feels probably that you’ve been corrupted by evil associations,” Blanchard replied. “When you were taken up more or less at the start by Jim Payne and Fred Bell and me, I guess that settled your prospects with Durant.”

“Oh! Then you are not friends with him?”

“Oh, yes; we’re friends.” Blanchard volunteered no explanation.

“Do you know a fellow called Shelly?” Edward asked. “A big fellow, sort of fat-faced and good-natured?”

“I certainly do. What about him?”

“He’s a good fellow, I think.”

Edward described the episode of the pocket-mirror, and Blanchard was convulsed with laughter.

“What’s the matter?” Edward asked in surprise.

“Oh, nothing. I was only thinking, if you did that to Tom Sheldon—”

“Was that Sheldon, the crew captain?”

“The same. Can you blame fellows for saying you’re fresh?”

Edward looked confused; then he said, “Well, I don’t care. It was the only thing to do.”

Blanchard laughed again and patting him on the back, said, “You’re a great kid, Ned.”

Anyway that little talk put Edward into good spirits; and the next day he was writing to his brother at St. John’s as follows:—


Dear Charley,—I ought to have written to you before this, but I have been so busy; there has been so much going on. I asked Mother to send you my letters. I guess the joke is on me all right. I thought that by coming here I should be getting away from your influence, but it does n’t seem to be the least use. They all think that because I’m your brother I must be some good, and they don’t treat me like a new kid at all. Blanchard calls me Ned, and I’m calling him Guy now, and pretty soon I guess I will try calling him Blanche. He is a corker. He says I’ll make the first Pithians” (he had n’t yet learned how to spell it), “and maybe the School eleven. He and Fred Bell and Jim Payne have the finest crowd here; they are all dandy fellows, and although they’re Sixth Formers and I’m only in the Fourth, I know them all pretty well already. The Fourth Form had a meeting yesterday and elected me President.

“We had a little baseball game here—the Fourth against the Sixth. They licked us, fifteen to seven, but it was pretty good fun. I caught for the Fourth and surprised myself and everybody else by getting a home run off Bell. He won’t let any St. John’s man do a thing like that, though, in a real game.

“Don’t I wish I could make the School eleven and buck up against you! I bet I could nail you on one of those dashes they tell me so much about; I bet I would give you an ugly toss.

“I guess St. John’s is a pretty fair school, but it is n’t in it with St. Timothy’s.

Affectionately,
“Ned.”


After a few days there came this reply:—


Dear Kid,—Of course I am glad to hear that you are having a good time and getting on all right; but when I think you might be having just as good a time here and getting on just as well, it makes me tired. The best thing that I know about your school is that they are doing so well by you.

“Is there really any chance of your making the St. Timothy’s eleven? I hoped that this year we should find it would be a contest, at least.

“You might remember me to Blanchard and Bell and Payne sometime. I have run up against them, and they are mighty good fellows. Funny they should n’t have come to St. John’s.

“Affectionately,
“Charley.

 

Edward transmitted these messages.

“We’ll stand him on his head for that,” said Blanchard. “Tell him I said so.”

Gradually, from observation and from the gossip of the old boys, of Lawrence and others, Edward began to understand what Blanchard had meant by his remarks about Durant. It was apparent that Durant had his own faction in the School, and was jealous of the larger and more influential one led by Blanchard, into which Edward had been adopted. Moreover, Durant had been a candidate for the captaincy of the School eleven and had lost to Blanchard by a narrow margin of votes; with his quick, hot temper he had never quite won the confidence of the fellows as Blanchard had done.

He had been bitterly disappointed by the defeat and had ever since maintained a rather distant manner toward the boy who had frustrated his ambition. So it was natural enough that any protégé of Blanchard’s should not advance far into Durant’s favor.

Yet Edward could not help admiring Durant. “I guess he can do things; I guess he can do just about anything he wants to,” Edward thought one day as he sat in chapel and looked across the aisle at Durant’s resolute, fine profile and handsome head.

He was destined, he knew, to find out how well Durant could play football, and he did not relish that prospect. It was not so much that he shrank from a test which would demonstrate his own inferiority as that he dreaded the encounter with Durant’s sharp tongue; he felt sure that in the heat of the contest his opponent would become ugly. He expected to have jeering, sneering things said to him all through the game; to be called, “Pishaw,” a nickname which he hated; to hear slurring remarks about his St. John’s affiliations, about his brother.

But his apprehensions proved groundless. Durant disdained stooping to such methods to gall and irritate an opponent; he might say ugly things in a flare-up of temper, but not by premeditation; he played the game as a gentleman. Although he took a keen satisfaction in shoving Edward round and opening up big holes through him, he abstained from unpleasant remarks.

Tom Sheldon was also on the Corinthian team, big, active, and good-natured; once he hurst through when Edward had started to run with the ball and bore him to the earth. Then as he lay on him, he tried to force the ball from his grasp and murmured cajolingly,—

“Let me take care of it for you, Crashaw; “go on; I’ll let you have it after the game.”

Edward hung on to it tighter—and liked Sheldon better than before.

Throughout the Pythian-Corinthian series Edward performed creditably; but he knew that the final victory of the Pythians was due to their supremacy elsewhere than at left tackle. He was afraid that on the School eleven left tackle would be assigned to Wallace, a Sixth Former and Durant’s intimate friend and room-mate; Wallace had played that position for the Corinthians. He had not shown himself to be especially strong, but he had an advantage over Edward in age and experience.

Blanchard said the next day, “Well, Ned, it’s a try-out between you and Wallace.”

That was good news to Edward; so long as he could still make a fight for the place he was happy.

On the other hand, when it became apparent to Wallace that he was not to have the vacancy without a contest and that he might not have it at all, he could not quite hide his disappointment. For two years he had been a substitute on the team; and he had assumed that this autumn—his last chance—he would be subjected to no competition.

But he accepted the unpleasant necessity more philosophically and with a better grace than did Durant, who had a praiseworthy interest in his success. Durant grumbled a good deal; he said that Crashaw might be all right in a year or two, but that now he was too young and green.

About ten days before the St. John’s game Durant went to Blanchard.

“I suppose it’s none of my business, Guy,” he began, “but it seems to me we’d stand a better chance if we played together in the line-up from now on just as we’ll play against St. John’s.”

“I have n’t been varying the line-up much,” Blanchard replied. “Only at left tackle, where Wallace and Crashaw have been alternating.”

“That’s just the place. If you pick your man now and keep him there right along, he’ll settle down to the position and play it better in the game.”

“I picked the man to-day.”

“I hope it’s Wallace.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you. It’s Crashaw.”

Durant’s face became glum. “I don't quite see why. Wallace is older, he’s had more experience; I’ve played against them both. This is Wallace’s last year, and I think he has a right to feel that he’s earned his chance.”

“Crashaw has football blood in him, and Wallace has n’t. But Wallace will probably get a chance in the game, because Crashaw’s young and may not have the endurance.”

Durant walked away in angry silence.

“Great Scott!” exclaimed Blanchard later, after telling Jim Payne about it. “Would n’t I lean over backwards to give the preference to Durant’s friend rather than to mine, if I could! I know he feels sore about not being captain; I think he might be generous enough to feel that I’d be generous. Anybody with half an eye can tell that Crashaw has Wallace beaten.”

The next day Wallace, dropped to the second eleven, seemed to be displaying unwonted aggressiveness. He was pitted against Durant; twice when Edward took the ball and tried to rush through the hole that Durant was expected to open for him, Wallace tackled him for a loss.

After the second failure Blanchard went up to Durant and said quietly,—

“Harry, are you playing this game quite straight? You would n’t let St. John’s through you that way.”

Durant flushed and looked sullen.

“Well, put Wallace against Crashaw if you don’t like the way I’m handling him,” he said.

“I can’t do that. Wallace needs practice in the position of left tackle, since he’s going to substitute for that. He can’t shift now and play right tackle.”

“Just the same, if you put him opposite Crashaw you’d soon find who was the better man.”

Blanchard turned away without replying.

Wallace himself, after the first disappointment, took the captain’s decision in a better spirit than that shown by his too loyal friend. He said one day to Edward, jokingly,—

“If you’ll kindly break an arm or a leg during the game, Crashaw, I’ll be much obliged.”

Edward laughed. “I hope they won’t want to pull me out for any other reason,” he answered.

Charles Crashaw wrote a facetious letter to Edward, saying that he appreciated St. Timothy’s effort to propitiate St. John’s by putting a Crashaw on the team, but that it would n’t help them a bit. “I suppose you and I will give each other several love-pats before the day is over,” he ended.

Edward wrote in reply, “I guess I’m in the best position of any one on our team. I don’t see that I can feel so very badly, however the game comes out. If we win, it will be great; and if we lose, it will be my brother’s eleven that licked us.”

At that Crashaw the elder felt a little ashamed of having been so consistently patronizing, and said to himself, “He’s a good kid, Ned is. I hope he does well in the game.”

Three days before the game, Wallace sprained his ankle so badly that there was no further hope of his playing at all. Edward was as sympathetic as any one with his misfortune; at the same time he thought that now at least Durant would be more friendly.

But if Wallace’s accident had been carefully plotted for by Edward and Blanchard, Durant could hardly have had a more violent outburst.

“O yes, Wallace is out of it now,” he said. “Mighty hard luck, some fellows are good enough to say. If Wallace had been playing on the first, where he belonged, he’d have been as well now as anybody—and somebody else would have been out of the game.”

That was his first outburst; no doubt in his cooler moments he was ashamed of it, for he did not talk in such a strain again. But in those last days he had little to say to Edward, either on the field or at the training-table.

The game that year was to be played on St. Timothy’s ground. The night before, Edward went to bed in his alcove at half-past nine. The dormitory lights were put out at ten; by half-past ten all the boys except Edward were asleep.

He lay with his eyes closed, turning restlessly every few minutes to gain a position which would invite drowsiness, but all in vain. He heard Keating’s sleepy cough and inarticulate mumble in the next alcove, he heard Lawrence turn in his bed, he heard the chapel clock strike eleven and twelve and one.

By that time he was desperate; what sort of a game could he play if he did n’t sleep? It was n’t only that he would be tired out physically; suppose he mixed or forgot the signals; there were so many of them. He began running through them in his mind; and while he was doing that the chapel clock struck two. “Oh dear!” he sighed. He rolled over, stretched himself out on his face,—and when he awoke the light was streaming in over his alcove curtains.

At the breakfast table Blanchard said to him, “You’re looking pretty fit. Have a good night?”

“Oh, fair.”

Edward thought that so long as he looked well he would not give Blanchard anything to worry about.

It was n’t easy to study that morning; however, in class the masters were all good-natured and helped him when he stumbled. He felt that on the part of every one, masters and boys, there was to-day a wish to make things especially comfortable for him; there was a special thoughtfulness. Keating and Lawrence clung at his side, petting him at every turn. Even Durant pleased him by coming up during the morning recess and saying, “Well, Crashaw, how goes it?” And Wallace, limping on crutches, said to him, “Strong as a bull, I hope?”

But after the early luncheon which the eleven had at the training-table and while they were walking down to the field, Edward did not feel as strong as a bull. He was nervous and shaky, and afraid that Blanchard would notice it and become distrustful.

Suddenly there was the sound of wheels behind, and then a shout; and there, swinging down the long avenue under the bare elms, came the St. John’s barge, drawn by four horses. The St. Timothy’s boys stepped aside,—they were only a short distance from the athletic house,—and the barge swept by. Edward stood, waving his cap and searching with shining eyes.

“Ned! Ned!” cried a voice; and there was his brother in the midst of them, waving at him.

In another moment the barge had stopped at the steps of the athletic house, and the St. John’s fellows scrambled out and St. Timothy’s ran up to welcome them. Edward was the first and had his brother by the hand; and when the next moment Blanchard came up, Charles, clinging to Edward, said, “Hello, Blanchard; I hear there’s an awfully weak spot in your line.”

Blanchard grinned.

“You’ll make a mistake if you act on that idea,” he replied.

There was a quarter of an hour before it would be time to dress, so the two Crashaw brothers went off by themselves; they found a sunny corner on the south side of the athletic house, and sat there with their backs against the wall.

One would hardly have taken them for brothers; Edward, the larger, heavier of the two, was round-faced, with softly moulded features, whereas Charles was wiry and had a straight nose, a decisive mouth, a long chin; only in their eyes were the boys alike, for in them was the same humorous, kindly look, the same quick intelligence.

It was a warm day for November.

“Going to be hot playing,” said Charles,

“I guess so,” said Edward.

“You’re pretty successful here, are n’t you?”

“Thanks to you, I’ve got a good start.”

“Thanks to me, you ungrateful pup! You’ve fixed me so that I don’t know where I’m at. Suppose a year or two from now you’re captain of St. Timothy’s; can I come up and root for St. John’s with any pleasure? And I certainly won’t root for you. You’ve spoiled about half my fun.”

“Oh, well.” Edward chuckled. “Don’t fret yourself about that, Charley. You know, I may never be captain.”

“You’ve got to play this afternoon so that some day you will be.—And we’ll lick you just the same.”

“We’re pretty good,” Edward said. “Tell me about this fellow Jackson that plays opposite me, Charley. What’s the best way for me to play him?”

Charles smiled at the ingenuous question. “Would n’t you like to know! He’s a terror.”

“Just the same, I’ll bet he’s as scared of me as I am of him.”

“That’s right; talk big; it will keep your courage up,” teased Charles.

Then, perhaps because it made them both nervous, they turned from the subject of the game and talked of other things.

Charles looked at his watch. “Time for my fellows to get dressed. Blanchard will probably be wanting you too, Ned.”

As they ascended the steps of the athletic house, they saw far up the road the St. Timothy’s column advancing and heard it suddenly roll out a great cheer.

“Look, Ned, look!” Charles pointed excitedly. “There come our fellows!”

A procession of blue-bedecked barges broke through the St. Timothy’s column and trundled down toward the field.