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CHAPTER V

THE CAPTAIN OF THE CREW

A WEEK after the opening of the mid-winter term at St. Timothy’s, Edward began training with the candidates for the Pythian crew. The number of them varied with the weather; if that was good and the skating was fine, there would be only a dozen or fifteen boys at work in the gymnasium; whereas on stormy afternoons there might be a hundred, of whom at least half considered themselves crew candidates.

Edward was one of the most constant, and was rewarded after a while for his constancy, for on a particularly lean day Tom Sheldon, the captain, said to him,—

“I’ve got to play hockey this afternoon, and most of the fellows will be doing that too; will you run the squad, Crashaw?”

Running the squad meant leading them in the pulling of chest-weights, stroking and coaching them on the rowing-machines, and afterwards taking them for a mile trot down the road. It was quite like being captain, and though Edward felt as he led his meagre band that perhaps not one of them would ever make the crew, he enjoyed being given a position of such responsibility.

As for Sheldon, with all his attractive qualities, he had not much feeling of responsibility. He was a most easy-going, mentally indolent boy, who was nominally a Sixth Former but who was really repeating about half his studies with the Fifth; he had been elected captain of the Pythian crew and also of the School crew by virtue of being the best oar in St. Timothy’s and not because he had ever demonstrated any notable capacity for leadership.

Of the four members of the crew of the year before who had returned to the School, Cochrane and Quimby were Fifth Formers and would naturally have been passed over in the election of a captain; but Edward could not help thinking it strange that Sheldon had been preferred to Durant, who was obviously a person of greater driving power.

Blanchard offered an explanation when Edward asked him about it.

“Sheldon was the best oar in the boat and pulled harder than anybody else in the race, so I guess the fellows thought he deserved the captaincy,” said Blanchard. “Besides, he’s more generally popular than Harry Durant; I guess Harry’s soreness over the football election hurt him when it came to electing a crew captain.”

If it had not been for Mr. Burns, the gymnasium instructor, who gave them some patient coaching, the Pythian crew candidates would have been rather neglected. On the crowded days Sheldon seemed both bewildered and indifferent; he would pick out six or eight of the biggest fellows and say. “Come on; fall in;” and with them he would do chest-weights and row on the machines, leaving all the others to their own devices.

It was quite a different method that Cole, the captain of the Corinthians, pursued. Cole had no great strength or skill as an oarsman, but he was most painstaking; and when he was not himself actively pulling weights or rowing, he was standing by, watching and criticizing and trying to teach the others—even the most unpromising. But when Sheldon had had enough of the weights and the rowing-machines, he would pick out some one—usually Edward—and say, “You run the rest of the squad to-day.”

Then he would go upstairs, where were the flying rings and horizontal bars and all the rest of the gymnasium apparatus; and there he would disport himself, wrestling with some other big fellow on a mattress, or sailing up and down the room on the rings, or shinning up the rope to the ceiling, or “skinning the cat” on the horizontal bar.

He was the hero in the gymnasium of all the little kids, and as he moved about performing his various stunts he was always attended by a group of small persons whose bare arms and legs showed goose-flesh, but who preferred to shiver and look on at such wonderful feats rather than engage in the dull inferior exercise within their powers.

Being so simple-minded and good-natured, Sheldon enjoyed the homage of the children; he would perform for them unceasingly.

Late one afternoon, when Edward had dressed and was about to leave the building, he paused in the doorway; at one side stood Mr. Barclay and Mr. Elwood; they did not notice Edward, for they were absorbed in watching Sheldon—as was nearly every one on the floor of the gymnasium.

At the farther end of the room two ladders, inclined toward each other, rose almost to the ceiling and were connected at the top by a horizontal ladder. Sheldon was going up the inside of one of the slanting ladders—not going up hand over hand, but jerking himself up with both hands simultaneously, jumping as it were in air from rung to rung. He was doing it very fast; the loud slap, slap of his hands, as they caught and then let go, resounded explosively in the silent room.

He reached a height from which to fall would be serious. Edward looked on with bated breath and wished that Sheldon would shift to the safer method, hand over hand; that in itself for such a distance was hard enough.

But Sheldon did not change; he went springing on indefatigably right up to the top, and when he had reached it the spectators broke out into clapping. He paused there only long enough to turn so that he faced the other inclined ladder; then he leaped towards it, rung by rung, and came down it rapidly in the same fashion. When he dropped to the floor, he turned a handspring on a mattress, came up, and blew a kiss to the admiring and applauding youngsters.

Edward heard Mr. Barclay say to Mr. Elwood, “He’s a wonderful athlete; pity he has n’t any brains.”

Perhaps that was true, thought Edward—yet he wished he were able to do that! And having witnessed such a performance, he was considerably more sympathetic with Sheldon’s casual treatment of the crew candidates. To one who could do such brilliant things, the work on the rowing-machines and chest-weights must seem pretty dull. Besides, Edward thought that probably after the hockey season was over Sheldon would take his duties as captain more seriously.

There would no doubt be a general reorganization then; for there were some good oarsmen among the hockey players who would then make their first appearance. And Edward found it especially easy to make excuses for Sheldon—as did almost every one who knew him.

Meanwhile, Edward trained persistently, enjoying his intervals of authority and at other times performing the exercises with faithfulness if not always with zest. It helped a good deal when Mr. Burns said just what Charles had said earlier: “You have the makings of a good oar in you, Crashaw.”

Mr. Burns spoke even more enthusiastically than that to Sheldon; and that was one reason why Sheldon picked Edward out for leader of the squad.

Jim Payne, the captain of the baseball nine, became apprehensive. He said to Edward one day,—

“It’s all right for you to train with the crew these winter months and get strong—but don’t forget; you’re to play baseball in the spring.”

“Oh,” Edward laughed, “spring is a long way off.”

“I know it, but we have to look ahead,” said Payne. “I’m counting on you.”

Edward evaded an answer. He could not help knowing now that in all probability he could make the first Pythian crew and that he might even win a seat in the School boat. If he could do that! He was n’t yet convinced that rowing was more fun than baseball,—though perhaps when one actually got out on the water it might prove so,—but whether it was or not, if the chance to row against his brother was offered him he meant to take it.

He wrote often to Charles of the progress that he was making, and Charles answered with messages of encouragement. As for himself, he said that he had not had much time to give to rowing since his return to St. John’s; he had been getting ready for the hockey game, in which, he said, they expected to push St. Timothy’s all round the rink.

Whether that was a well-founded vaunt or not, Edward had little opportunity of judging. He sometimes wished he could get into one of the scrub hockey games again with Keating and Lawrence and Vance and the others; they were talking about them all the time at the table, and urging Edward to drop his rowing once in a while and tend goal for them.

“You have such fine big feet for it,” Lawrence said. “There’s nobody else with such big feet.”

“Besides,” said Keating, “it is n’t good for you to stay shut up in the stuffy gymnasium when you could be out in the open air.”

“I take a run outdoors every day,” Edward replied.

Indeed when he was in charge of the squad, he made those runs so long and vigorous that some of the boys protested. He took them bare-legged across fields when the snow was ankle-deep; he spurred them up icy slopes; on thawy days he splashed them along muddy roads until they were all a sorry-looking sight.

They complained that they were n’t out for cross-country runs, that he was giving them chilblains, and that they did n’t see what this sort of treatment had to do with rowing anyway.

“Toughens you up,” said Edward, with a cheerful grin. “Come on; you’re getting husky.”

He was having a pretty good time out of it; yet there were moments when he could not help envying other boys. When in the late afternoon, on the run home to the gymnasium, he passed the pond where the hockey players were flying about on the ice, with the ringing rush of the skates and the clashing scrimmage of the sticks, what he was doing seemed stupid and plodding by comparison.

He had an eye for the picturesqueness and the grace of the skaters; he liked to see a line of them sweep down the ice with that fine vigorous singing of their skates, and then sharply wheel on a flank movement as some daring and deft opponent twitched aside the puck they were pursuing. It was all so brisk and spirited and changing, that it made the steady pull on the chest-weights and rowing-machines and the jog-trot on the empty roads seem monotonous.

The sun setting beyond the pines which fringed the shore burnished the ice with warm bronze and golden tints; on two afternoons Edward thought he had never seen anything more gorgeous than that glow with all those swift and agile figures flashing about in it, sparkling with their own bright colors, their red jerseys and white sweaters and caps of different hues. He was sure then that to play hockey as the School team played it, as Charles played it, must give one the greatest joy, the most triumphant feeling in life; he was more than ever sure that it must be wonderful to be Charles!

On the morning of Washington’s Birthday, Edward was tobogganing with Lawrence and Keating and a number of other Fourth Formers on Roup’s Hill, which was half a mile from the School, on the road to town.

It was a clear, cold morning; there was a hard crust on the snow all the way down the long slope to the alder-fringed creek; there were gleaming thank-you-ma’ams over which the toboggans leaped, and frozen pools over which they skimmed; the holiday spirit was in all the boys; they shouted as they flew down the hill, and from the bottom they raced eagerly up again. Off in the distance they could see the pond where other fellows were skating, and beyond that the rink, empty of skaters, shining with its fresh ice and waiting for the contest of the afternoon.

Charles had written to Edward that the St. John’s hockey team were coming over by the nine o’clock train to have luncheon with the St. Timothy’s team before the game; so, after half-past eleven, when the nine o’clock train was due to arrive, Edward abandoned his toboggan and sat on the stone wall, watching alternately the coasters and the road.

Presently his eyes fell on two open sleighs coming rapidly, one close behind the other.

“I'll bet these are the fellows,” Edward called out; and a group gathered by the wall to see.

The first sleigh drew near and passed; the four boys in it were strangers who yet looked as if they might be St. John’s fellows, and who turned their eyes on the roadside group with a questioning smile. Then one of them waved his hand, and at that Edward and the others pulled off their caps and waved a welcome.

By that time the second sleigh was almost abreast of them; there were only three boys in that, and one of them was Charles. Edward made a rush for it, scrambled in while it flew by, and the next moment, in the seat beside his brother, was being introduced to Isham, who was captain of the team. The other boy was Jackson.

“Hello!” Edward said, with surprise. “I did n’t know you were on the hockey team. Who has to buck up against you this time?”

“Nobody special; I’m going to play coverpoint,” Jackson answered. “I got into the game only because Jack Nolan came down yesterday with tonsilitis.”

“If you’re only a sub, you must have the wonderful team,” said Edward. “It’s a good thing I’m not in this game.”

Charles looked at him and laughed, then squeezed his knee affectionately.

“It’s great to see you again, old boy,” he said.

In front of the Study the St. Timothy’s hockey team were assembled to welcome the visitors. After the greetings were over, Edward pulled at his brother’s sleeve.

“There’s an hour before luncheon, Charley,” he said. “Won’t you spend it with me?”

“Yes, you bet. You might take me round and show me the sights. But first I want to drop my bag and my hockey-stick.”

“You can put them in my locker in the gymnasium; you’ll be dressing there for the game.”

As they walked along together, Charles scanned the buildings with curious, interested eyes.

“I’ve never before had a chance to see much of St. Timothy’s,” he said. “When I’ve come over with the team, it’s always been just to go straight to the athletic field and then home again. What’s that?”

“That’s the Lower School. Over there is the Library. That big brown house is where Dr. Davenport lives. Do you have as fine buildings at St. John’s?”

“Oh, much finer.”

“Go on.” Edward jostled his brother good-naturedly.

“Well, just as good. What’s this punk-looking place?”

“This is the gymnasium. The inside of it is pretty good, anyhow.”

When they entered, Charles peered about with a critical interest.

“Almost as big as ours,” he acknowledged finally. “Where are you going to put my things?”

Edward took him down to the locker-room, and from there to the room where were the rowing-machines.

“I’ve learned a lot on those things,” Edward said. “If you want to, Charley, you can sit down on one now, and I’ll coach you.”

“How cocky all you St. Timothy’s fellows do get!” observed Charles.

“Not a bit like you St. John’s fellows, then, are we?” rejoined Edward.

But after that they ceased to squabble, and when Edward took his brother into the chapel and pointed out the memorial windows and let him examine the carved stalls in the choir and the lofty arches of the nave, Charles admitted that it was a fine building. “But then it ought to be,” he added. “The same man built it that built ours.—Now let me have a look at some of your friends.”

So Edward introduced Keating and Lawrence—who indeed had been lurking around in the hope that this opportunity might result—and presented them to Charles.

Charles’s comment afterwards was: “They seem like pretty good fellows, but why are they so polite?”

“Why,” said Edward, “would n’t you try to be polite when you met a great man?”

“Oh, cut it out!” cried Charles, feeling very much pleased.

At Mr. Elwood’s table Lawrence and Keating expressed their admiration of Edward’s brother.

“But he’s not so very big, is he, Ned?” said Lawrence.

“No. He weighs only a hundred and forty stripped.”

“Mighty well put together, though—does n’t walk on his ankle-bones.”

“Shut up,” said Keating. “Did you notice what a keen eye he has? I’ll bet he made you stand round, Ned, when you were a kid.”

“But he could n’t make me go to St. John’s,” boasted Edward.

He did not see his brother again until an hour later, when, at the edge of the rink, he stood by Charles and watched him put on his skating-boots.

Charles, like the other St. John’s players, wore a blue jersey and blue stockings and knickerbockers; some of them wore shin-pads, but Charles told Edward, who asked him about that, that he never could skate as well when he put them on.

Besides Edward, there was a group of St. John’s fellows standing by and talking with Charles while he made his last preparations; the St. John’s delegation of spectators had just arrived. There were not many of them, for only members of the Sixth Form were permitted to make the trip with the hockey team.

“Go after ’em, Charley; you’re the boy!” they called when Charles rose and glided away on his skates.

The St. John’s team swung about on the ice, passing the puck from one to another, shooting it through the goals, lifting it on long tosses through the air.

In a few moments the St. Timothy’s players, in red jerseys and red stockings, appeared and had their brief warming-up. Then the game began.

For a time it was all wild rushing, sharp whacking and shouting, swift dashing and quick turning, but not a score. Then Blanchard in the middle of the field blocked the puck that Jackson from coverpoint had lifted on a long pass, and started with it. Charles and Isham, who were St. John’s left wing, bore down to intercept him; Sheldon blocked off Isham, and then Blanchard, seeing that Charles in another moment would pen him against the side of the rink, shot the puck far across to Durant.

Two St. John’s players made a rush for it as it slid by, but Durant trapped it, turned with it coolly, and darted off at an angle just as the two who had righted themselves came rushing at him.

He ran it past Henderson, St. John’s point, he steered it cleverly by Jackson at coverpoint, and then was directly in front of the goal; Charles was flying in from the side in a desperate effort to reinforce the goal-keeper, but he swung with his hockey-stick just a moment late. Durant shot the goal, and a shout of satisfaction went up from St. Timothy’s for his cool and brilliant play.

“Game’s young yet,” Edward heard Charles say cheerfully to Jackson as he swung by for the line-up.

A few minutes later Jackson at coverpoint stopped the puck and lifted it sailing to the farther end of the rink. The St. John’s forwards were after it hard, and soon were scrimmaging for it with Blanchard and Sheldon and Bell. Suddenly Charles broke with the puck from the scrimmage, and sweeping in at a sharp angle he skimmed the disk past Wallace through the St. Timothy’s goal. The score was tied, and the small band of St. John’s supporters were making a great deal of noise.

“Shucks!” said Lawrence to Edward with disgust. “Your brother never ought to have got that, even if he is your brother. Wallace acted as if he was asleep.”

St. Timothy’s scored again, however, just before the end of the half; Sheldon broke through and carried the puck as far as Jackson, who intercepted it, but could not hold it; Blanchard, following at Sheldon’s heels, snatched it from Jackson and sent it with a swift stroke flying through the goal.

In the second half St. John’s seemed to have determined on a change of tactics. Hitherto the game had been played by both teams with as little resort to “body-checking” as possible; it had been a game of fleetness and dexterity, and St. Timothy’s had had a shade the better of it.

Now the St. John’s players began charging the St. Timothy’s fellows, giving them the shoulder, butting into them at full speed; in the first three minutes there were more upsets than there had been in the whole of the preceding half.

Sheldon got away from the scrimmage twice with the puck, only to be the victim each time of what was pretty nearly a head-on collision with Jackson.

Lawrence and Keating began to exclaim heatedly against the roughness of the visitors, but Edward said,—

“Are they doing anything they’re not allowed to do?”

Lawrence had to admit that he had detected no foul play. “Just the same they’re playing a rougher game than our fellows,” he contended.

“Well, if they think they’re better at that and there’s no rule against it, why should n’t they?” Edward asked.

It was certainly not long before St. Timothy’s adapted their game to the exigencies of the situation.

“Don’t let ’em knock you down that way!” shouted Bell, who was captain. “Go for ’em yourselves!”

There began then to he a good deal of banging round on the ice, of butting one another, of spilling and sprawling. Sheldon was given another hard fall by Jackson.

“Jing!” said Edward. “I know how his shoulder feels!”

A moment later Charles had the puck and was racing with it up the side of the rink, close by the low board-fence; Sheldon came at him. Charles sent the puck caroming against the fence and out behind Sheldon, whom he dodged at the same moment; then in full possession of the puck again, he charged out into the middle of the field and made for St. Timothy’s goal.

“Look at him hike along!” cried Keating.

Edward was indeed thrilled; his brother was surely skating faster than anybody on that rink had ever skated; the others were all racing after him, yet all of them were losing distance, not gaining it.

Bell rushed at him from coverpoint, but just as the collision was imminent Charles swerved, with the puck still in the crook of his hockey-stick, and then, having eliminated Bell from his path, he made furiously at the goal. Wallace, spreading himself out in it, made a convulsive effort, but the puck whizzed by a foot from his stick and once more the score was tied.

“Rah, rah, rah, St. John’s!” shouted the St. John’s Sixth Form, who were gathered together on the farther side of the rink. Then individually they called out their congratulations to Charles:—

“Great run, Charley! Do it again! You’ve got their nerve!”

Charles had been skating hard; he leaned forward, resting on his hockey-stick, and panted for breath. But a moment later, when the puck had been put in play, he seized it and started off as if to repeat his performance; he got by Sheldon in just the same way as before, and Lawrence remarked with chagrin, "He’s making a monkey of Sheldon.”

But this time Durant cut in and by a clever swoop snatched the puck and sent it, with a long pass, across the rink out of danger.

Sheldon’s blood was up; the two tumbles which Jackson had given him, the two pocketings which he had received from Charles Crashaw, had affronted the pride of one who was perhaps something of a grand-stand player. So when a third time Charles snatched the puck from a scrimmage and started off with it, Sheldon dug his skates in the ice and came at him at a sharp angle, with his teeth clenched. Perhaps Crashaw was more than his match at finesse; well, this time he would n’t get away with it. They might both go down together, but anyway Crashaw would n’t slip by.

 
P 110--The Crashaw brothers.jpg

CHARLES WAS PITCHED OVER THE FENCE

 
Charles darted a glance at him as he came rushing on, and shoved the puck out temptingly, meaning when Sheldon reached for it to whisk it as before up against the fence and recover it on the rebound. But this time Sheldon ignored the puck entirely; he rushed into Charles headlong, and together they went down with a great crashing of sticks and clattering of skates. Charles was pitched over the fence out upon the hard frozen ground, where he lay motionless.