The Girl and the Game and Other College Stories/The College and the Circus
THE COLLEGE AND THE CIRCUS
THE COLLEGE AND THE CIRCUS
The telegram said: "You are hereby warned finally to keep away from this town with your show."
"Colonel" Charles Baker, proprietor of Cherokee Charlie's Grand Combination Circus and Wild West Wonders, said, "Well, Bill, if those young college dudes are looking for trouble, I reckon we ought to be able to accommodate 'em."
One-Barrel Bill said, "Huh." This meant that he agreed with his boss and anticipated a diversion.
"We did last year," said Cherokee Charlie.
"We did," said One-Barrel.
"I reckon we can again," said Cherokee Charlie.
"I reckon," said One-Barrel solemnly.
So that is the way it was decided.
The telegram was signed by the Mayor and Council of a small town where a large college is situated, and where Cherokee Charlie's Grand Combination of Circus, Stupendous Western Wonders, World-Renowned Rifle-Shots and Mexican Cowboys was billed for the following Wednesday, and where he still intended, it seemed, to keep his date, notwithstanding the advice of more experienced showmen, and in spite of several letters from the University Faculty and town authorities who knew their business.
No circus ought to come to any college town. At some institutions of learning they merely embarrass the tumblers and make the clown feel that he has missed his calling. At this college they were in the habit of doing more than that; it was one of the traditions that no parade should pass in front of the campus gate—without being broken up. Circuses could go through the other streets as much as they wished, but not there. "It disturbs our studies," they said. "Besides, we can do all the parading necessary, thank you."
Last year, when Cherokee Charlie's show came, several students were injured in the accompanying mix-up, one quite seriously, not to speak of the women and children of the town. Worst of all, the procession had proceeded, and the students had discovered that cow-punchers and Mexican lassoers require a different course of study from the ordinary urban bareback rider and flour-faced clown. It was very chagrinning. Perhaps it is not necessary to add that this time they were conscientiously preparing in advance for Cherokee Charlie. They were American undergraduates.
Two days before the circus was due another special meeting of the Discipline Committee was called.
"If we could only induce the ringleaders to be sensible for a few minutes," the President of the University was saying, smiling sardonically, "it would be the only efficacious means in a crisis of this nature. Who is at the head of the movement?"
"Mr. Stehman, of course," said one of the younger professors. "It was he who instigated the disturbance last year; it is chiefly for that, you recollect, that he is now on probation."
"He is absolutely fearless, and quite as unscrupulous," said another professor.
The President looked thoughtful. "I was under the impression," he said, "that he was endeavoring to be serious since elected captain of the football team. Now, if we could induce him to exert his influence in the other direction——"
"Nonsense," said the junior professor under his breath. "You could never persuade him, sir," he said aloud. "That particular species never changes."
"Incorrigible," echoed another professor.
Now, if Stehman had heard this he would not have been surprised, but he would have considered it unfair. He had been trying of late to brace up and behave himself; and it was partly because of the scepticism of certain members of the Faculty that he had such a discouraging time of it. They did not know how hard he had been poling—or trying to; certainly his stand in class did not show it. They took for granted that he was still a loafer.
He was, to be sure, in the thick of the present plotting, but that seemed only reasonable from his point of view. He had stirred up the racket last year—this was before he had turned serious—and as a result little Reddy Armstrong was nearly killed by a blow from a Mexican bolo. Reddy was a great friend of Stehman's. Therefore, it was necessary to even matters up with the Mexican, especially since the latter had vowed to shoot Stehman on sight. Wasn't that reasonable? But how were the Faculty to know all that? Even Faculties are not infallible. If this Faculty had been infallible it would not have sent out at just this point an edict in which glared the word "forbid." That is a word which human males of a certain age do not always fancy.
"Forbid us, eh?" their eyes said to each other on the way out from chapel. "Well, well, well; that's a different matter."
With Jack Stehman it stirred the lingering boy within him to the surface; only he thought it was his manhood.
"Say, Reddy," he said, "what do they think this is, anyway—a college or a prep. school?"
Several others looked around; they always did when Captain Stehman spoke.
Reddy Armstrong puckered up his comical face to look like a nine-year-old child—one of his specialties. "Oh, pa-pa," he said, looking up at Stehman, "may I go out? I promise not to get my feet wet." The group smiled at this, and then others tried to be funny, too. "I had intended to go out and shoot with the gun club," said Brown, "but now, of course, I'll have to join in the row."
"I tell you what we'll do," said Stehman with a twinkle in his eye—the boy in him had risen triumphant; "we'll call an indignation meeting of the undergraduate body and see about this."
"Right!" "That's the stuff!" said other voices approvingly. The group had grown into a crowd now, and it scented sport. "Vox populii," pronounced Reddy with grandiloquent gesticulation. "Now, law," interrupted another, shaking his index finger after the manner of a well-known professor, "is the established habit of the community; every one knows what the habit of this community is when it runs across a parade; therefore it's our duty——"
"Come on," said Stehman; "we'll have a lot of horse. Tell everybody you see. If we all agree to turn out and stick together, they can't fire the whole college."
The crowd began to scatter.
"Mr. Stehman—oh, Mr. Stehman; may I speak with you a moment?"
Stehman looked around, stopped smiling, lifted his hat, and hurried over to the walk. It was the President.
"Mr. Stehman, pardon my interrupting you. Mr. Stehman, I'm afraid I'll have to trouble you to help me about this affair. I can't do it alone." The President smiled informally. Stehman looked respectful; his thoughts were "Great Scott!"
"I mean," the President went on, "that you have more power over this body of men than I have," He indicated the several streams going along the walks in various directions, then looked at Stehman again, who smiled, but considered the remark too absurd to answer. The President had a reputation as an after-dinner humorist. "I'm not joking," said the President, looking serious; "I mean you to take me very literally. I mean that they would do for you what they would not for me. I mean that I can forbid their making trouble, but you can keep them from making it."
Stehman had never thought about it in just that way before. He felt rather pleased but very foolish; so he blushed and looked over toward the fellows who were waiting for him. One of them caught his eye and grinned.
"Mr. Stehman, I take it for granted," the President was now saying, "that you do not mind my asking you to exert your influence in the direction in which lie the interests of the University?"
Stehman liked this, but he only said: "Well, sir, thank you very much for the compliment; but I don't believe I have any influence—except, of course, over the team——"
The President snapped his long, scholarly fingers. "This is no time for compliments," he said. "This is no mild college prank ahead of us. Among those coming to this town to-morrow are some of the wildest types our country produces. They will certainly carry arms; they will probably use them. There will be serious trouble—a riot—bloodshed—perhaps death. Think of what that means, Mr. Stehman—bloodshed, perhaps death. Think what it means to the parents of those hurt. Think what it means to all of us—to the fair name of the University for whose honor you and I are both supposed to be working in our different ways." Stehman was looking steadily in the President's eyes now. "I like the way he is talking to me, anyway," he thought. "No threats, no reference to my being on probation—good, straight talk."
"It takes a long time," said the President, "to make the public forget headlines such as those that appeared in the papers last year. Such occurrences do more harm than can be balanced by winning football championships. Don't you think so?"
Stehman was kicking up gravel. "Very likely," he said.
"Mr. Stehman, I won't keep you longer; but remember, this body of men will do just about as you direct them. Which way are you going to direct them?"
Stehman hesitated. He was trying to say something—but saying things was not in his line; so he only scowled.
"Good morning, Mr. Stehman; I was in hopes you would help me; good morning."
The Captain made a gesture as if to speak, but the President had hurried off abruptly, displaying more emotion on his thin, ascetic face than most people thought he was capable of. "Perhaps Professor Saunders was right," he was saying to himself. "I am disappointed, greatly disappointed."
"Well," thought the big football player, watching the President hurry off, his shoulders bent with worry, "I never knew before how white that man was. The Faculty don't talk like that to me, as a rule." He smiled a little at grim recollections of experiences at Faculty meetings. It was his own fault, he knew; he told himself that he had been a great fool. But now that he was trying to control the exuberance of hot, youthful blood, he had often wished they would give him a chance to show that he was something more than "a mere athlete," as little, dried-up Professor Saunders once called him.
And now here it had come, most unexpectedly, and from the President himself, who had talked to him quite in that trustful man-to-man manner that the professors had always used with Nick Norris, the last year's Captain—who, however, was also a high-stand man.
"Why couldn't something of this sort happen before?" he said to himself as he started off to catch up with the other fellows. "It's just my luck! If he had only talked to me like this a couple of weeks ago when the show-bills were first posted; I don't say I could have done much, but I would have kept my mouth shut, anyhow. Or if he had only tackled me five minutes ago it wouldn't have been so bad, but now—the fire's started, and I don't see how I can stop it. Listen to that!" A few loud voices in the distance were already shouting, with evident enthusiasm: "Hel-lo-o! Everybody! Indignation meeting—eight o'clock this evening—in the English room. Everybody come!"
The only thing for Stehman to do now was to get up in the mass meeting and urge obedience to the Faculty's command. It made him flush to think of it. "They wouldn't understand," he said to himself. "They would only know that that Mexican mucker is laying for me—or else they'd think that because I'm on probation I'm afraid—of course they would. They all saw the President talking to me; they could draw their own conclusions. Besides, what would be the use? I couldn't tell them to be good little boys; they wouldn't take me seriously; they would think I was a hypocrite." It was a disquieting thought. "If it would be of any use I would try, but it would do the University no good, and incidentally," he added, thinking of certain ambitions, "it would do me a lot of harm."
"Heads out!" yelled other voices. "Everybody come to the indignation meeting."
Everybody did. The place was crowded long before the appointed hour, and they sang and talked and smoked until the meeting was called to order.
A self-appointed committee had prepared resolutions which were read with much mock ceremony and many "whereases" and "wherefores" and " aforesaids." Boiled down to a sentence, it meant: "As the cowboys got the better of us last year, it is the duty of every loyal son of the Alma Mater to pitch in and clean out the cowboys this year, particularly since the Faculty has forbidden it." It was received with great applause.
Then remarks were in order—they meant to have all the fun out of it possible—and the chairman of the committee took out his pipe and said: "Are we going to let muckers come to this place and ride over us and knock people down [A voice: "Well, hardly!"], and be bullied into meek, child-like obedience by the Faculty? [Loud voices: "No! not on your life."] Then I say, pass this resolution." He sat down.
"Beautiful speech, Billy," laughed the man next to him, and pounded him on the back.
Then a modest, hard-working fellow whom few knew, named Horatio Stacy—called Poler Stacy by his classmates—arose and said in a self-conscious manner that he did "not agree with the words of the last speaker nor with the purport of the resolutions." He reminded them of their duty as members of a Christian college, spoke with horror of bloodshed, and advised them to obey the commands of "our honored President."
They did not jokingly interrupt him; they kept coldly quiet. Stacy was a good man, and respected by the more sensible element; but he had no tact. What he said was all right, but the way he said it was all wrong. His speech did more harm than good to his side of the question.
But you needn't think it was easy for this man to talk thus; the tremble in his voice showed how hard it was. Stehman, the big football Captain, looking at Stacy as he sat down, wet with perspiration and shaking all over, said solemnly to himself: "I wish I had as much nerve as that."
Another man jumped up. "It's not so serious as all that," he said, smiling confidently at the crowd, who smiled back. "Our friend here has too much conscience and not enough sense of humor. Besides, we are not infants, to be told we must and we must not. Is this a college or is it only a prep. school? [Stehman, listening, thought to himself, "My very words this morning."] We are here for an education," the speaker went on. ["Right," they shouted—especially the loafers.] "We are here to study, by Heavens!" the speaker went on amid some laughter. "It's absurd. It's against our inalienable rights and privileges as citizens of these great and glorious United States. [A voice: "When did you vote last, Jimmie?" He was only nineteen.] That's all right." he said, smiling. "Anyway, let all those who are afraid of the Faculty or of a little bloodshed stay behind the fence or in their rooms!"
Just then Long Jack Stehman jumped up, and the crowd yelled and howled delightedly. "Now, fellows," cried a shrill, enthusiastic voice, "let's have three good, rousing cheers for Captain Stehman. Are you ready? Hip—Hip …" The cheers made the windows rattle. Then three more were given, and then a three-times-three, before he was allowed to begin, and even then, when silence was gained and he cleared his throat to speak, some one remarked audibly: "Where's that bolo, little Jackie?" and the room yelled with laughter again. This referred to an incident of the previous year, when Stehman took the bolo away from the Mexican who had knocked Reddy Armstrong down. It now hung over the mantelpiece in Stehman's room.
They had now quieted down for the great man to begin. He looked about the room; some of them were still smiling admiringly. "You won't cheer me when you hear what I've got to say. [A voice, jocularly: "Oh, I don't know; you'll do."] I started the rumpus last year. [A voice: "How did you guess it!" This made them all laugh again. Stehman did not laugh. He looked very solemn.] And now, I wish—I wish I hadn't. I wish I had minded my own business." He paused and wiped his brow.
"What are you giving us, Jack?" cried a voice, and Stehman noted the affectionate familiarity in the tone. They were still loving him, still admiring him; he saw it in their faces. He felt awkward and futile, and their jocularity only made him feel ridiculous. "Say, Jackie," called out another voice, "what are you trying to do—pull our legs?"
"No," said Stehman in a conscious tone; "I mean every word of it. This is no time for joking. If you fellows make trouble to-morrow you'll be doing the worst thing that could happen to the college. I am heartily opposed to passing this resolution." He paused for some one to say something, so he could argue about it. Every one was silent. "I say I am heartily opposed to it," he repeated. But they only looked puzzled; they did not believe him. There was a deeper silence now. One of Stehman's intimates, a far-sighted fellow, leaned over toward him and whispered: "Don't, I tell you, old man; don't! They won't understand it; it will—will only hurt you." This meant that it would kill Stehman's prospects for the Senior class Presidency, but Jack, who had thought of that, only waved him aside. Even now it was not too late—he could turn it off, he knew, by saying, "I say, I am opposed to it, but since it is necessary, why, let's make a clean job of it and do it well," which would have been received with roars of applause and approval. He wavered for a moment, then said so emphatically that no one could misunderstand: "I am going to do all in my power"—he brought his big fist down on the desk—"to prevent what you fellows seem to have made up your minds to." He hit the desk another blow. It was like a bolt out of blue sky. No one said anything aloud. They were whispering to each other: "What's got into him? What's the matter, anyway?"
Meanwhile Jack went on, every word astonishing and jarring his hearers: "It's bad enough already, as the President said this morning, without making it any worse. Who began it, anyway? We did. I guess I ought to know," he added defiantly, but nobody disputed it. They were only looking pained and puzzled. Stehman knew how to make a tackle as well, according to expert criticism, as any one in the Western Hemisphere, but he did not know how to make a speech, and the horrible stillness in the room was making him feel sick at his stomach. "How about Reddy Armstrong?" said a low voice from the far corner of the room. "Yes, how about it. Jack?" said some one else. "And the Mexican who has it in for you?" said the voice from the corner.
"Well, er—well, did the circus people make a raid on the college campus? No; they were minding their own business. We began it."
"And we'll end it," cried the voice from the corner, boldly now.
"Shut up!" cried Stehman angrily; "I have the floor!" Now the bull was stirred up. "You fellows are acting like a lot of kids; you're hot-headed; you're rattled; you make me tired!" The bull was roaring now. But a bull is not of much use in a situation somewhat more delicate than a china shop. In order to make hot-headed kids do as you want them to do, you should tell them anything but that they are kids and hot-headed. A loud, sneering voice now came from the far corner, "Oh h—l!" was what it said.
It was the first hostile tone directed toward Stehman, publicly, since his greatness began, and it paralyzed him. He was too astonished and rattled to be angry now. He looked about the room confusedly and sat down, defeated.
For a moment there was that same thick silence settling down over all like a mist and causing a hideous feeling of self-consciousness. They were afraid to look at each other; they were afraid to speak. "There goes the class Presidency," whispered Dougal Davis to Lamason.
Ignace Holland got up. He knew that any one would be welcome now; and, true enough, the room yelled with relief. He had always been jealous of Stehman's popularity, and now he saw his chance to get up in the estimation of the college world by stepping on his rival's head. His had been the voice from the far corner.
"Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen," he began in his well-modulated tone, for he was what is called a born orator: "Self-preservation is the first law of Nature. I think each of us can imagine himself in circumstances in which he——"
"It's a lie!" shouted Jack Stehman.
Holland, pretending to be surprised, turned toward him and said in his oily manner: "What is a lie, Jack, old man? Have I referred to you?" Every one was listening excitedly. Stehman saw that he had made a fool of himself, and so made no reply. The room was now filled with murmurs for a moment. "Well, he's the last man I'd have believed it of!" Stehman heard some underclassman say: then a laugh or two. They were laughing at Jack Stehman. The Chairman rapped for order.
"As I was remarking, Mr. Chairman, self-preservation is the first law of Nature. Therefore I wish to point out, and shall now do so, if not interrupted, that it is our duty to protect ourselves as a college against the attacks of ruffians who visit our town. It is our duty to wipe out the disgrace of last year and prevent its being repeated—prevent our Alma Mater from being plunged into deeper disgrace." ["Yes! Good! Right!"] Holland's trick had worked, and he went on, feeling that he had the sympathy of his hearers:
"If, in the eyes of the world, we, as an undergraduate body, are cowed by ignorant cowboys and greasers, where will our prestige go—where will our strength be? Who with spirit or athletic ability will be drawn hither? And then, how shall we be able to cope successfully with universities three and four times our size, as in our glorious past? [Loud yells.] Last year Reddy Armstrong was almost killed by a cruel blow on the head at the hand of a half-civilized Mexican. Is it or is it not our duty to avenge him? ["Yes! That's the stuff!" Even if necessary with our blood? [Some of them laughed, but others applauded seriously.] Let those who will, skulk at home—and no doubt they have good reasons; I make no insinuations—with cowards and Gospel sharks; but let all who are true sons of their glorious Alma Mater, all who would live up to her past record of bravery—not alone in athletic contests, but in every war of our country's history—come forth and avenge the honor of our college. [Applause. He had them on the run now.] Who dares say we shall not? ["No one!"] Who will stay at home like a coward? ["No one!"] We must teach these ruffians their place! ["Right!"] We must teach the Faculty that there be limits to their powers. ["Good!"] Finally and most emphatically, we must teach all cowards that they are enemies to the progress of our glorious University! [Applause.] Mr. Chairman, I call for the resolution." [Many voices: "Yea! Yea! Question! Question!"]
The Chairman jumped up. "If there are no further remarks, the question will be put. All in favor——"
And then came a thunderous "Aye!
"No!" shouted Stehman. There were not twenty voices that joined with him, and these were feeble.
The meeting was adjourned.
"And to think," said a post-graduate who had dropped in to look on, "that yesterday they couldn't have done too much for that boy. That's the way with undergraduate popularity." Stehman strode off to his room alone.
"Wasn't it rotten?" said Reddy Armstrong to some of the others. "Lots of 'em think he did this to stand in with the Faculty. He's got the whole college soured on him now."
"And that bothers him," said Linton, "much more than the loss of power; he values affection much more than power. He's not like Holland."
"What got into him, anyway?" asked one of the others.
"Well, he had some good reason, all right enough," said Reddy.
Being his friends, they went over to his room to see what they could do for him.
"Well, old man, you did all you could," they said, "and it was no go. Now, come out and join the fun to-morrow."
"The voice of the people is law, you know," said Reddy, grinning. "Besides, you ought to show them that you're not afraid. Some of 'em are fools enough to think——"
Jack jumped up, walked across the room to the window, came back, sat down again, and shook his head.
"You won't do the college any good by being obstinate," said Dougal Davis, "and you're doing yourself and the club a lot of harm politically."
Jack had been looking from one to another like a nice big dog who has been misunderstood. "Now it's your turn to kick me," his eyes seemed to say to Linton.
"You must admit, Jack, it doesn't seem quite fair on the face of it," said Linton. "You got the college in this hole last year, you see. Seems to me you ought to stick to em.
"Oh, he'll come out all right to-morrow, won't you. Jack?" said Reddy affectionately.
Jack smiled and shook his head.
It was a delightful, innocent-looking morning, and soon after chapel groups of more or less studious students began to gather on the main street. There were ill-concealed lumps under their coats.
As soon as first lecture was over they were joined by many others. They all wore the quiet smile of anticipation. They would walk up the street a few steps, then stop, wait a minute, turn, and walk down again.
"Here they come! Here they come! Ah!" The calliope had started up, and now the procession turned the corner.
At the head of the cavalcade, in Western costume, rode Cherokee Charlie. He had long hair and a flowing moustache, and tried to sit his horse like Buffalo Bill. His small eyes glittered when he spied the students.
Reddy Armstrong called across the street to somebody else: "Say, Tommy, isn't he handsome?"
Cherokee Charlie made no remark, holding his eyes front and trying to look as he thought Buffalo Bill would look. He had given careful instructions to his men—in fact, there had been during the past week daily rehearsals which had nothing to do with the regular performance.
"There's old One-Barrel Bill," the students were now shouting. "Howdy, partner? Say, One-Barrel, let's see you shoot!" One-Barrel took a fresh chew of tobacco.
"Look at the lovely cowboys. Oh! Oh! Aren't they wicked?"
"Here come the Indians. Wow! Wa—wa—wa—wah!" The young bucks grinned as if they enjoyed it; the old ones merely looked oblivious and inscrutable. The discordant steam calliope kept on playing. Now the students began walking along the street beside the procession. The sidewalks and shop doors and windows were crowded with townspeople, including the entire negro population.
The procession proceeded for a while in silence now, an ominous silence, considering that a solid stream of students was stretching out along the street, parallel with the parade.
"All right now, fellows," whispered Holland. "Spread the word down the line." He was the leader this time, and meant to make more of a success of it than Stehman had made last year, though there were those who thought that if Holland and the rest of the college had pitched in like Stehman, there would not have been a fizzle last year and the show would not have come to town this year.
"All right, Holly," said one of his lieutenants. The calliope had stopped.
"Now, then, all together!" shouted Holland. Out of several hundred coat pockets came an assortment of the products of market gardening and the poultry business. The next instant they began whizzing through the air at Cherokee Charlie's Grand Combination. An overripe tomato made Cherokee's flowing moustache flow. An egg left its mark upon One-Barrel Bill's flannel shirt.
The students were carefully strung out along the whole line, so that, except for the four-in-hand in the lead, on which sat the "Coterie of Western Beauties," the whole cast of performers was receiving attention at once. The hail of vegetables and eggs lasted for about half a minute, and the procession did nothing but duck and swear and hold in the horses. They were following their instructions.
But this was merely a prelude. Holland's strong voice began again: "Now's the time, fellows!" he shouted. "At 'em! Rush' em! Rush 'em!"
With loud yells the whole line of collegians suddenly turned out upon the street and charged in upon the cavalcade, shouting and hooting vigorously. It was something like one of the old-fashioned cane-spree rushes in form and in fierceness; only, instead of grabbing off opponents' hats, they jerked bridles, threw the remainder of the ammunition in the showmen's faces, slapped the horses' heads, pulled the cowboys' stirrups, and tried to upset the smaller wagons.
Now, the showmen had been counting upon something happening, and so the sudden attack did not cause so much of a stampede as the students had expected. One or two mustangs started to run away, one pony was upset and the rider spilled, but that was about all. Cherokee Charlie and his lieutenants had in their day ridden against worse things than college students, and the horses themselves were accustomed to charging through long-horned steers in the round-ups.
"Ride through the crowd," said Cherokee Charlie in a matter-of-fact way, and, without stopping to wipe away the débris on their faces, they turned their horses' heads, dug in their spurs, and began charging the students. The latter, being on foot, were obliged to fall back to the sidewalk, thus crowding and jostling each other and the townsfolk, but doing no particular damage. One man on horseback is better than three on foot.
"All right!" shouted Cherokee Charlie; "I guess we'll go on with the parade now." He seemed good-natured about it.
That was the way he settled the miners who created a disturbance out in a Western city. But these were not miners in a Western city, but irresponsible dudes of an Eastern college, and their blood was getting up. They were waiting for Holland; except for individual scraps here and there along the line, there was a lull.
"Do 'em, fellows! Do 'em up!" called Holland, who stood in the rear. "Rush 'em! Get out of here, you Greasers! Fellows, run in and upset that car! Stampede the horses! Get 'em on the run!"
"Ride through 'em again," said Cherokee Charlie.
"Wow! Wow! Whoop—hee!" yelled the cowboys, warming up to their work. They had divided into two columns, and were dashing up and down the street waving their hats and revolvers. They separated the fellows where they could into groups, cutting them out like cattle on the ranges. Meanwhile there were individual fights going on.
"Say, this is a fizzle," the students began to murmur disgustedly. "Where's Jack Stehman, anyway?" asked a panting, excited underclassman.
"Oh, Jack Stehman!" voices began crying. "Come out here; we need you!"
Holland heard this. "Here, fellows," he shouted; "don't let those Greasers do that! Get in there, you big fellows! Don't stay back here! Here, take rocks to 'em!" Holland himself picked up a sizable stone from the street and let drive at Cherokee Charlie; it missed him and crashed through a shop window opposite.
"Ah, don't! Let up on that!" shouted several voices. But others, being excited, followed Holland's example. Stones began flying. Some of them hit the horses.
Cherokee Charlie rushed over to the college side of the street, drew up his horse, whipped out his gun—a big, ugly looking Western six-shooter—and yelled in a loud voice: "That'll do! That'll do! The next (so-and-so) that throws a rock gets this! Pull your guns, boys!" His own was waving and glittering about his head. "The next man you see——"
But Billy Carew, the catcher of the 'Varsity baseball nine, had let drive at Cherokee Charlie very much as if throwing to second base. The crowd heard it thump against Cherokee's solid shoulder.
The latter wheeled about, and, swearing vividly, shouted, "Where is he? Who did that?" brought around his big gun in the apparently careless manner of the old-fashioned Westerner, and fired, shouting as he did so: "Boys, let loose at these devils! Let daylight through 'em! There's not a court in the land that can touch us now!"
There's something very important-sounding in the loud report of a shot in a street squabble, with the serious-looking spurt of flame, and the puff of smoke floating away afterward. Whether purposely or not, Cherokee Charlie fired high, but the report thrilled like murder.
"This way, gun club!" cried a clear voice. It was Shorty Simmons, Captain of the University Gun Team, the best shot in college and a very cool man in a tight place. "This way!" he shouted, starting toward the campus gate near by. "Two can play at that game," he said, as he ran along. They had stacked their guns in the campus, largely for a joke, and now they were going to use them.
Meanwhile the cowboys were gathering in close rank, and two or three more shots had gone echoing down the street.
But just then another noise was heard—the sudden scuffle of horses' feet and the clatter of wheels. It was the four-in-hand carrying the "Coterie of Western Beauties" and here it came straight down the street, gaining speed every second. The eyes of the horses showed what was the matter; they had taken it into their heads to run away. The crowd was scattering right and left. The Western beauties were screaming. The coach was swaying from side to side; the women were clinging together. "Good Heavens!" they heard one of them cry. It was Cherokee Charlie's wife. He turned his horse and tried to cut in and grab the leaders. His horse veered off. Every one was thinking about the next corner. There the horses would probably try to turn, the tents being in that direction. This meant that the top-heavy vehicle would go over; lamp-posts, pavements and cobble-stones would do the rest. The coach had now gone through the crowd, and all were crowding out upon the streets again to see what would happen. This is what happened:
Just before the galloping horses came even with the lower campus gate, out from the driveway shot a long, strong runner, scudding over the ground with remarkable speed. It was Jack Stehman. That was just the way he ran on the football field. Every one took in the situation. He was going to make a tackle far more difficult than the one which saved the game last fall. "But if the leaders should veer off as he jumps!" thought every one. And now he was making one of his famous dives through the air, with head tucked in between his shoulders in his finished, workmanlike style; only this was a very high tackle instead of a low one. His feet had already left the ground when the leaders, suddenly seeing him, veered off to the other side. It was just as all had feared—but just what Stehman had counted upon, for it was exactly what some half-backs do when running with the ball. The Captain's sure, strong arms met about the neck of the horse—and every one gasped."He's got 'em!" shrieked some shrill voice. "No, they're dragging him—they're slacking—he's stopping them! Down they go! Lord!"
The leaders had fallen. The others stumbled over them. The coach slacked so suddenly that the rear wheels lifted up, came down with a bang, and stopped. But Stehman did not spring up as he usually did after making one of his brilliant tackles. The whole crowd came crowding down the street toward him.
"Stand back! Give him air—give him air, I tell you!… Will you fellows keep the crowd back?… He's all right now! Here's the water! You're all right now, aren't you. Jack?"
The Captain opened his eyes. "Yep," he said; then closed them again as they carried him to the drug store.
"He's killed!" said some excitable person on the outskirts of the crowd.
"Nonsense! He's a football man," said another.
"My, what nerve! Hello, what's that?"
"He's all right, fellows; he's all right!" cried some authoritative voice coming out of the drug store.
Jack, within, opened his eyes, blinked, and asked faintly: "What are they cheering for?"
"You!" said Reddy Armstrong joyfully. "That was the nerviest stunt ever done in this college."
Stehman was too faint to talk, but he was thinking that there were things that required much more nerve than making a grandstand tackle.
Strangely enough, the President next morning in chapel spoke on the subject of the highest kind of bravery. He did not mention any names, but—when Senior class election came around there was no balloting for President. There was only one nominee, and the election was unanimous.