The emblem of the Clifford school was a rooster, while that of Columbia, like Princeton, was the tiger.
Immediately the Columbia fellows began booting an old ball about, and falling on it with reckless abandon, just as they had been taught to do by the coach.
"Look there, will you!" exclaimed a girl close to Minnie Cuthbert in the grandstand. "How nice and white the suits of Clifford seem, while our boys are dirty. They ought to be ashamed, I should think. We have just as good a laundry in Columbia as they have up above."
But to those who knew more about such things there was an atmosphere of strictly business about the soiled suits of Frank's team. They looked as though they were on the field for hard work, and not to show off, or "play to the gallery."
And the wise ones took stock of this fact. Some of the sporting men even began to hedge in their bets, and might have tried to even up all around, only that they happened to know of a secret upon which they were building great hopes.
And that secret concerned the signal practice of the Columbia eleven!
The Clifford boys were continually waving their hands to some people in the crowd they recognized. There was an air of assurance about them that seemed to loudly proclaim the fact that they anticipated no great trouble in putting the "Indian sign" on Columbia.
On the other hand, the home team seemed to notice nothing, save the fact that the ball was there to be shot around, and tumbled on heavily. They had a grim look, too, and in vain did the girls try to attract their attention, for it was rarely that one of the eleven so much as turned a look toward the spectators. All of their time was taken up in play, and observing their rivals.
"Just wait, and we'll dirty those sweet white suits some," chuckled Lanky, as he passed the ball like lightning to Shadduck.
Minnie was watching one player intently. For the first time in a long while he did not look along the rows of faces until he saw her waving wildly, and doff his cap, or in this case, wave his hand, since he had no cap to lift.
She trembled with secret delight as she finally saw Frank raise his head when the ball was in another quarter. But when he made a motion with his hand, it was in a different direction entirely, and looking over, Minnie saw that Helen and Flo Dempsey sat there.
"They're getting ready to line-up. See, the referee has the two captains over by him. It's going to be a toss for position," cried one eager spectator.
"Not much choice to-day, though, since the wind is light," returned another.
"But there always is one side better than the other. The sun will be in the eyes of the fellows who lose. That may count for something. And the breeze may grow stronger as the game goes on. There, Frank has won, for he's taking his men to the lower goal. But that gives Clifford the kick-off. That looks bad."
"Oh, I don't know. It will only spur them on to working a little harder. Wait and see. I've got a hunch that Frank Allen has a surprise or two up his sleeve for these gay white birds from up river. I'm not worrying. I've seen that boy on the baseball field, and on the river in the boat races. He is all there with the goods, and they're a full yard wide. You hear me!" and the enthusiast jumped to his feet, to flap his elbows as though they were wings, while he emitted a shrill crow that caused a laugh to break out in the immediate vicinity.
"Now we're going to se some fun!" called a fellow who was waving the colors of Clifford with great vim.
And under the eyes of thousands of eager spectators, the rival elevens took the places assigned to them to await the signal for play.
A HARD FOUGHT FIRST HALF
Although there might be changes at any time during the progress of a fiercely contested game, the line-up at the start was as follows:
Allen, Captain. West. R.H.B. L.H.B.
Shadduck. Oakes. Harper. Bird. Daly. Eastwick. Morris. R.E. R.T. R.G. Center. L.G. L.T. L.E.
Evans. McQuirk. Roe. Gentle. Ross. Adkins. Smith. L.E. L.T. L.G. Center. R.G. R.T. R.E.
Coots. Wentworth. L.H.B. R.H.B.
Hastings, Captain. F.B.
Clifford was to kick off.
Hastings, the big captain, stood there, poising himself for the effort, and every eye was glued upon his really fine figure. Hastings knew it, and purposely lingered just a trifle longer than he would have done had there been no mass of spectators hedging in the field on all sides in a solid bank of humanity.
There was a shrill whistle, the referee's signal, and it called into life the twenty-two motionless figures that stood about the field. Big Hastings ran forward, glancing sharply about to see that his men were on the alert, and the next moment his shoe made a great dent in the side of the new yellow ball. Away it sailed into the air, far over toward Columbia's territory.
Straight toward Lanky Wallace, the plucky little quarter-back, it came, and Wallace was right under it. Into his arms, with a resounding "pung!" the spheroid landed, and, like a flash, the quarter passed it to Jack Comfort for a return kick.
Comfort's toe found the pigskin as if his shoe belonged there, and back through space went the twisting oval, in a long spiral curve, while the cohorts of both teams loosed the yells that had been long on tap.
"That's the stuff, old man!"
These cries of encouragement to both sides were soon lost in the riot of cheers and appeals to the teams to "go in and win!"
Big Hastings once more had the ball, and booted down the field with a tremendous, smashing kick. Lanky and Oakes ran to get under it, with good intentions, but with misdirected energy, and collided forcefully, while the ball bounced from Lanky's shoulder and rolled along the ground, a prize for whoever could first get it.
"By jove, our fellows have lost the ball!"
"Get to it, Columbia!"
Exclamations of dismay, and frantic appeals came from a thousand throats. Like mad the whole twenty-two players darted for the yellow spheroid.
There was a mixup, a confused mass of struggling forms, an indiscriminate whirlwind of waving arms and legs, and then, after the frantic blowing of the referee's whistle, and when, slowly, player after player crawled off the heap, Frank emerged, somewhat bruised and dazed, but with the precious ball tucked under his arm.
"Fine, old man!"
"Frank's got it, all right! That's the stuff. Did you see him slide right in front of Ross, their husky right guard, and cover it? Say, this is a little bit of all right—all right!" cried an enthusiastic follower of Columbia.
It was on Columbia's twenty-five yard line now, rather closer to the goal than Captain Frank liked, but he resolved to get right into the play now, and called for the line-up. There was a whispered conference between Wallace and Allen, and then the quarter began calling the signal, emphasizing the first number. A thrill seemed to run through the Clifford players, and when Paul Bird snapped back the ball to the captain, instead of to the quarter, who, all along, had acted as if he meant to take it, there was a sudden rush on the part of Clifford, but it was too late.
They had prepared for a play around their left end, but Frank quickly passed the pigskin to Ralph West, the left half, who sprang forward on the jump, and tore through a hole made between the unsuspecting right guard and tackle of Columbia's opponents. Through Ralph plowed, heaving and plunging his way, aided by a splendid interference, knocking aside Wentworth, the opposing right half, and struggling forward for a good gain.
"Oh, look at that, would you! Look! Look! He'll get a touchdown!"
"Touchdown nothing!" growled a disgusted Cliffordite, "What's the matter with our fellows, anyhow, to be fooled like that?"
"Guess they read our signals wrong!" retorted the admirer of Columbia High, with a chuckle.
"Oh, wow! Look at that! Hastings nailed him that time!"
Ralph had gone down under a fierce tackle by the big opposing captain, but the plucky left half had made a good gain, and, as he rose and held his hand on the ball until Bird came up to take it, there was an outburst of cheers that warmed his heart.
"Good work, old man!" whispered Frank, as he ran up. "We fooled 'em that time!"
Herman Hooker led his gallant band of shouters in an impromptu war-dance back of the grandstand, their frenzied shouts of joy at the splendid play sounding loud above the other yells.
Then came quiet, while the players again lined up, and the calling of the signals could plainly be heard across the gridiron. It was useless for Clifford to listen, if, perchance, she had sneakingly obtained a line on the play system of Columbia, for Lanky was using the changed code, and only he and his men knew it. Slowly he called off. It was an indication for Frank to take the ball, on a try around right end.
Back came the oval with a clean snap, and the next moment Frank, with it firmly tucked under his arm, was circling around Evans, while Oakes, Harper and Shadduck had gotten into play on the jump, and had successfully pocketed their opposing end tackle and guard.
Forward leaped Frank, with Shadduck and Oakes forming splendid interference for him. Down the line they sprinted, while once more the frenzied shouts broke forth:
"Go it, old man! Go it!"
It began to look as if Frank would score, for big Hastings was the only man available to tackle him, as the other two backs had played in so far that they were now hopelessly in the mixup of tangled figures.
"Go on! Go on!"
"Yes he will! Wait until Hastings tackles him!" this from a boastful Clifford player.
Hastings was waiting for the man with the ball, but Frank was running behind Shadduck and Oakes now, and they were on the alert. Hastings made a dive between them, seeking to come at Frank, and for one fearful moment there was fear in the hearts of his friends that the plucky right half would be downed. But Oakes fairly threw himself at the big opposing captain, and the two went tumbling in a heap, thus ending any chance Hastings had of tackling the man with the ball.
Amid such yells as were seldom heard on the gridiron, Frank, accompanied by Shadduck, whose interfering services were no longer needed, touched the ball down exactly in the middle of the line, behind the two posts, while the straggling Clifford players straggled madly down the field, but too late. Behind them came their leaping, dancing and exulting opponents.
"Oh, you, Allen!"
"Great work, old man! Great work!" And indeed it was a splendid run.
Such shouting and yelling as there was! Herman Hooker and his band of "Indians" were hoarse with their efforts thus early in the game, but gallantly they kept at it. There was a little silence while the Clifford players lined up back of their goal posts, and then Ralph West kicked goal, the ball sailing true between the posts, and making the score six to nothing in favor of Columbia.
"That's the stuff! That's going some! Keep it up, you Columbia Tigers, we're all proud of you!" hoarsely called a big man, stamping about and waving his cane adorned with Columbia colors. He had graduated from the old school twenty years before, and he had never lost his love for it, nor for her sons of the gridiron.
There was an exchange of punts on the next kick-off, and when that sort of playing was over, Clifford had the pigskin on Columbia's thirty-yard line.
"Now, fellows, go through 'em!" grimly called Hastings, and Style began to give the signals in a snappy voice. In another instant Wentworth, the Clifford right half, hit the line with a tremendous smash, going for a hole between Eastwick and Daly. Their mates rallied to their support, but there was smashing energy in the attack of Columbia's opponents, and hold as Frank and his players desperately tried to, they were shoved back, and Wentworth had gained four yards.
"Another like that!" called Hastings. "Go to 'em, now! Eat 'em up!"
Once more a smashing attack, and three yards more were reeled off around Shadduck's end.
"This won't do, fellows!" said Allen, seriously. "We've got to hold 'em!"
"How's that? Guess we're going some now, eh?" demanded a Clifford admirer, who sat next to Mr. Allen.
"Yes, you have a good team," was the answer. "But our boys are only letting you do this for encouragement."
"Oh, ho! They are, eh? Just watch."
Indeed, it looked a little dubious for Columbia. Her players were being shoved back for loss with heart-stilling regularity. There was no need for Clifford to kick, and all of Frank's frantic appeals to his men to hold seemed of no avail.
There was somewhat of a bitter feeling when, after some tremendous line-smashing, Coots, the left half, was shoved over the line for a touchdown, and that gave the cohorts of Clifford a chance to break loose. They did not kick the goal, however, and that was some encouragement for Columbia, since it left them one point to the good.
Once more came the kick-off, and then, when Columbia had the ball, and had lined up, she went at her opponents with such smash-bang tactics, such hammer-and-tongs work, that she tore big gaps in the wall of defense, and shoved player after player through. Frank was sent over for a seven-yard gain, then came a fine run on the part of Ralph, netting eighteen yards, while the crowd went wild. There was grim silence on the part of the Clifford adherents as the line-up came on the ten-yard mark, and then, amid a great silence, Comfort smashed through for another touchdown.
"Oh, wow! How's that? Going some, I guess, yes!" howled the big man, who had been a player in his youth. "Oh, pretty work!"
The goal was missed, for the ball had been touched down at a bad angle, but the score was now eleven to five in favor of Columbia, and there were still several minutes of play left in the first half.
There was only a chance for an exchange of kicks however, ere the referee's whistle blew, signifying that time was up, and the players, who were just ready for a scrimmage, with the ball in Clifford's possession on her opponent's fifteen-yard line, dissolved, and raced for their dressing rooms.
A SCENE NOT DOWN ON THE BILLS
Columbia enthusiasm broke out louder than ever when the intermission between the two halves was called. Their boys had thus far not only held their own, but scored more than twice as heavily as the enemy.
Still, the Clifford enthusiasts did not appear to be downcast.
"Wait," they kept saying mysteriously on all sides, while shouts of encouragement went out to Hastings and his doughty warriors.
"What do they mean by that?" asked Mr. Allen, of the man from above, who sat near him on the bench of the grandstand.
"Well, Clifford is a slow team to get started. They always do better in the second half of a game. That with Bellport was a fake, because their signals had been given away. They learned this when the first half had been played. It made them savage. The result was Bellport didn't score again, and Clifford made a few points before the end came. They'll wake up presently!" was the confident reply.
Among the most enthusiastic of the vast crowd was Minnie Cuthbert. She waved her little banner and joined her voice in the general clamor, for the mad excitement had seized girls as well as boys and men.
And yet all the while she seemed to have eyes for no one but the agile captain of the Columbia team. Wherever he happened to be, her gaze was either openly or covertly upon him.
Again she saw Frank wave his hand cheerily, and looking in the direction where his attention seemed to be directed, she discovered that Helen and Flo Dempsey were flourishing bouquets of flowers made up of purple and gold, to illustrate the school emblem.
And, moreover, Minnie understood full well that these had undoubtedly come from the conservatory of the Allens. Somehow, it pained her to know it. From that time on she resolutely set her eyes toward anyone on the field, so long as it was not Frank.
There was much consultation during the rest spell. Coaches and captains had their heads together, trying to ascertain if it were possible to strengthen their teams by bringing in a fresh man as substitute.
Several had been more or less injured in the fierce mass plays, and were showing it, despite their efforts to appear natural. Not for worlds would anyone of them express a desire to be taken out of the game. If the captain decided against their continuing, well and good, for he was the sole judge of a man's fitness; but each fellow believed he could still carry himself to the end.
The general excitement was such that a man might be seriously hurt and not be aware of it, buoyed up, as he was, with the wild desire to accomplish glorious things for the school he loved.
"How are you feeling, Bones? Any bad result from your immersion in the cool drink last night," asked Lanky, as he and the right guard came together.
"Not an atom, glad to say. You fellows saved me by your prompt action, and the general rubbing down I had after the rescue. True, my left wing feels sore to the touch after that slamming I got when I went down with the ball over their fifteen-yard line, and a dozen fellows piled on top; but I don't think it's broken, and I haven't said anything to Frank, because I'm afraid he'd yank me out."
Lanky carefully massaged the arm in question, eliciting a few grunts from the stoical player under the process.
"Only bruised, old fellow. By the way, have you noticed any limpers around this morning—among the spectators, I mean?" he remarked, whimsically.
"Sure, two of them, Jay Tweedle and Bill Klemm," laughed the other immediately. "They hustled away when they saw me looking, and it was all they could do to keep the agony off their faces. But it would have to be more than a mere dog bite to keep any fellow with red blood in his veins away from a scrap on the gridiron like this, though I reckon both of them are hoping to see Clifford win, hands down."
"Well, there's another poor chap limping somewhere around the grounds—Asa Barnes. Good old Kaiser must have put his teeth in his calf pretty sound, for you can see the tear in his trousers' leg. That was a great time, and I envy you the privilege of having seen it. What a scattering of the boasters, and all on account of one dog!"
"Yes, Lanky, but such a dog! He thinks the world of me. Why, I could hardly tear myself away from him this morning, he wanted to come with me so bad. After this you needn't ever think of giving me a guard; Kaiser can fill that position up to the limit," said Bones, proudly, as became the owner of such a wonderful canine.
"Time's nearly up. Are we going to bring any new horse out of the stable? Did any fellow make serious blunders? Is anyone hurt?" asked Lanky.
"If they are, they keep it to themselves. But there's Shay coming out, while Eastwick goes to the seats. I was a little afraid that Jack might prove too light as a tackler. Why, twice he failed to bring his man down, and was carried more than a few yards before another fellow caught on. Shay ought to be an improvement."
"What do you think, so far, Bones?"
"We've about held our own, that's comforting," was the reply.
"But the score isn't as big as I hoped it would be," expostulated Lanky.
"Yes, but we owe that first touchdown and goal to the fact that Clifford was confused with the signals you called. They thought they meant the old version, and rushed to meet the play. That gave us almost a clear field."
"I guess you're right," returned Lanky, thoughtfully.
"Now, see where we stand. They got a clear touchdown, and were over our fifteen-yard line when play was called. I tell you, we're going to have our work cut out to score again, and you can see that every fellow of the opposition is out for blood. To be licked by Bellport hurt; a second drubbing is next to unthinkable with them. Mark my words, they'll die hard!"
"Bones, you're right. We've got to do our level best in the second half. Once let us develop a weak spot, and they'll aim for that every rush. There's Frank calling to me again. Five minutes more, and we'll be at it, hammer and tongs," and Lanky hurried away to where the captain stood, with the very last word in the way of orders.
The line of play had been decided on long before. This had been arranged in accordance with what they knew about Clifford's line-up. Just as Lanky had declared, once let a weak place show, and from that minute on the opposition bends every effort toward pushing the ball in that quarter, until, finally, the defense gives way, and the oval is carried triumphantly across the line.
Gradually the players began to take their places again. Clifford, too, showed a new face; Hollingsworth being substituted in place of Evans, as right end, the other having been injured in a scrimmage, thought not enough to get out at the time.
It was Columbia's kick-off this time, and Jack Comfort was the one to do the honors which would inaugurate the second half of the game. Just as he stood there ready to make the first move, the picture was one that would never be forgotten by the thousands who witnessed it.
Every breath seemed hushed. A mighty silence hung over the wide field, as eyes were riveted on the crouching figures, whose faces, so far as seen, because of the disfiguring head harness, showed the earnestness that possessed each soul.
It was at this critical moment that suddenly loud shouts arose. They seemed to come from behind the grandstand, and quickly swelled in volume, until it was a deafening roar that broke forth. Frank called out something, and the referee instantly blew his whistle, to signify that delay was imperative until the cause of all this row could be ascertained and the noise quelled. It was simply impossible to continue the game while so much racket held, as the players would be wholly unable to hear the signals.
But now the tenor of the wild cries began to be understood. Players looked at each other in blank dismay. Never before had they heard of a football game having been interrupted by such a strange and terrible cause.
"Mad dog! Mad dog!"
That was what the people were shrieking over and over. The entire mass of spectators seemed to be writhing as they leaped to their feet. Faces grew white with sudden fear. Women and children cried and shrieked, and hands were wrung in the abandon of despair.
It was easy to discover the immediate scene of the disturbance, for there the lines swayed more violently than elsewhere. People crushed back against each other, forgetting all else in the frenzy of fear that possessed them. What could be more terrifying than the coming of a mad dog in the midst of such an assemblage of merrymakers, out for a grand holiday?
"Run, you fellows; he's heading out on the field! Get a move on you!" roared a voice through a big megaphone.
It was, of course, the wonderful cheer captain, Herman Hooker, who thus gave warning of the coming peril. Indeed, his cry was hardly needed, for the two elevens could mark the passage of the terror by the swaying back of the lines upon lines of spectators, all of whom seemed to be possessed of a wild desire to climb up on the highest seats, so that the panic was fierce.
Then through the mass came the running beast, with his head close to the ground, and trailing a chain behind him. His actions were certainly queer, and well calculated to strike terror into the timid hearts of the helpless ones gathered there to witness the spectacle of a football contest, and not a mad dog hunt.
And running valiantly after the brute came Officer Whalen, doubtless intending to attempt to shoot the animal when once he found a chance.
Suddenly the raging brute uttered a series of fearful sounds, and started directly for one of the players on the field, as though intending to attack him first. The vast crowd shrieked all manner of imploring directions, and unable to render assistance, just stood there and looked and prayed.
But Frank Allen neither started to run nor moved to the aid of the threatened player for he had discovered that the one who stood there was Bones Shadduck, and in the leaping dog he had recognized the persistent Kaiser!
CLIFFORD'S LAST HOPE
"Why doesn't the fool run?" cried one man, quivering with suspense.
"It's too late now! See, he's going to tackle the brute! He's got his hands out ready! Gee! what nerve!" bellowed another, this time from Clifford.
A third laughed harshly, for the strain had been beat on everyone.
"Its all off, fellows. That's his dog!" he shouted.
"Well, I'll be hanged! Look at him jumping up to lick the boy's face, will you? Did you ever? This takes the cake!"
The crowd had by this time discovered that it was a false alarm, and by degrees the hysterical feeling wore off, though there were many who would not soon forget the awful sense of fear that had almost paralyzed their systems.
Kaiser had apparently broken loose long after Bones had left home, and determined to find his beloved master, had trailed him to the football field.
Possibly the faithful animal believed that there might be further need of his services, and that there were more fellows in need of trimming.
Of course the game had to be delayed until Bones could lead Kaiser away, and secure him in a little room under the grandstand. The crowd howled and cheered as he went by, and Shadduck grinned in his usual happy fashion, feeling that for once at least he was in the exact limelight—thanks to Kaiser!
Once more the two opposing teams faced each other on the field. The rushers were crouched, ready to spring forward as soon as the ball had been put into play. Comfort prepared to send in his best kick, after which the whole field would be in motion in the mad endeavor to urge the ball toward the goal of the opposing side.
Jack was a famous punter and also a gilt-edged drop-kicker. He had a peculiar spiral kick that was calculated to be exceedingly puzzling to the enemy. And since much depended upon how far he sent the oval into the enemy's territory, all eyes were eagerly glued upon him now.
Away sailed the ball with the most erratic motion the Clifford men had ever seen in all their experience. Some ran this way, and then suddenly changed their course, as they realized the deceiving nature of the ball's aerial flight. But the Columbia ends knew just how the full-back would send the ball, and they shot for the spot, determined to reach there almost as soon as the enemy, and cut short his advantage for a run.
Coots managed to catch the ball, and darted back with it, but was downed, almost in his tracks, by a fierce tackle on the part of Shadduck, who had slipped through the interference.
"Down!" howled Coots, after he had recovered his wind. The players lined up, while Style began calling off the signals. The Columbia players braced for the attack they knew would soon come. And come it did. Their line tottered and wavered under the smashing impact, but it held, and Wentworth was hurled back for a slight loss.
"That's the way to do it!" cried Frank, in delight. "Hold 'em again, fellows, and they'll have to kick!"
Once more Clifford, in desperation, for she wanted to keep the ball, tried for another advance, this time around her opponent's left end. But Morris and Shay were on hand, and nailed the player before he had gone two yards.
"They've got to kick!" came the cry, and indeed that was the only play left for Clifford. Still, it might be a fake one, and Frank signalled this to his men, so that they might be on the alert. But Comfort ran away back, and it was well that he did, for the ball was booted well into the Columbia territory.
The full-back caught it and managed to rush back fifteen yards before he was fiercely downed.
"Now's our chance, fellows!" called Frank, while Paul Bird came up, took the pigskin and waited for Lanky to give the signal.
"I-m-p-o-r-t-a-n-c-e!" spelled out the quarter.
Instantly after the last letter was given, there was a sudden movement. The center had flashed the ball to Allen, who started furiously around the outside of the Clifford line. West was running diagonally, and passed him. Many did not notice that as they crossed Frank dexterously passed the ball to Ralph, but kept on running and dodging as though he still held it.
The trick was not a new one by any means, but when well done it was apt to deceive at least a portion of the rattled opposition; so that several of the Clifford players were, for the instant, really in doubt as to which of the two half-backs carried the ball.
Thus in the beginning the force of pursuers was divided. Ralph was a sprinter, and could avoid interference in a manner that was simply marvelous. He had the entire bunch against him, trying to block his play, but with wonderful skill managed to dodge each in turn, until when finally brought down he had reached the enemy's ten-yard line!
A burst of applause from the eager spectators; then again absolute silence, for once more the heavily breathing players had gathered in battle array. Again came a hot scrimmage. The ball was over the side lines now, and out of bounds. So it had to be brought in. Clifford had it for a change, but the conditions were desperate with them now, with their home goal close behind. Let a Columbia player once get his hands on the oval, and the chances were he could carry it over the line for a touchdown.
The man who did the thinking in this emergency knew his business. When the next scrimmage was on, many of the spectators were astonished to see a Clifford player jump away from the melee with the ball in his grasp, and hurl himself deliberately across his own line.
Immediately the crowd gave expression to their feelings. Some cheered, while others groaned, as the play was understood best.
"Why, that man is a traitor to his team!" exclaimed one indignant fellow.
A Columbia graduate, who happened to be sitting next to the speaker, gave him a look of contempt, as he remarked:
"On the contrary he proved to have an exceedingly clever head on him. Stop and think for just a minute. They were close up to Clifford's goal. The chances were ten to one in that scrimmage that Columbia would get the ball, and with the next play carry it across the line. That meant a touchdown. Then if they could kick a goal, as is likely, they would count six. As it is now, Columbia gets only two because that quick-witted fellow put it over his own line. More than that, the next play is back at the twenty-five yard line; so you see how easily Clifford gets out of a bad corner."
As little time as possible was lost getting in position again. So eager were both sides to accomplish things that they begrudged the fleeting seconds.
The tide of battle surged back and forth. Dozens of plays were pulled off that it would take many chapters to describe. But what cheered the enthusiasts of the home team was the fact that most of the work was being done on hostile territory!
In between times when there was no need of silence the raucous voice of Herman Hooker could be heard, as he led his band around back of the crowd, and shouted again and again in unison the thrilling yell of Columbia, with the intention of stirring the blood in the veins of each player, and investing him with renewed pluck and zeal.
As if it were needed, when each one of those sturdy champions had already been keyed up to top-notch speed. Time was slipping away, and despite the almost superhuman efforts of Clifford they could not seem to get the ball over that strenuously defended line of their opponents.
In vain did the rooters urge them on to renewed efforts. Columbia seemed to have thrown up a stone wall in front of her goal lines, and no matter what strenuous plays were called off they were met with a stubborn tenacity that robbed them of results.
Only seven more minutes remained of the second half. Columbia adherents were jubilant. They already began to discount a victory, and were winding up preparatory to making the air ring with their shouts.
The wise ones kept close watch of the play. They had known occasions just like this when the winning team became over confident, and the last few minutes witnessed their utter rout.
Would it happen so in this case? Clifford was exerting every effort to bring about such a happy condition of affairs. Frank had warned his men against the slightest slackening of speed or vigilance. No game is won until the referee's signal announces that the end has come.
Now the determined Clifford hosts had carried the ball over into the territory of their rivals. Columbia was visibly weakening before these fearful plunges, and it seemed as though flesh and bone could not hold out against them. Seconds counted now. How desperately Frank and his backers fought to ward off the threatening evil. Every lawful tactic that would bring about delay was brought into bearing. Twice had the ball gone out of bounds, which necessitated a new alignment, and consequent passage of those precious seconds.
Columbia was on the defensive; but it was a splendid exhibition of harrying play they put up, thanks to the instructions of Coach Willoughby. On their fifteen-yard line they faced the Clifford crew for the last struggle. Despite the prediction of the man who had declared them a great second-half team, Clifford had failed to add to their score during the half hour that had elapsed, that lone touchdown standing to their credit.
"Boys, we want a bigger score than this!" called Captain Allen eagerly, when time was taken out to enable some wind to be pumped back into Style. "We've got thirteen points, and they have five. It's too close a margin. We've got time enough to make another touchdown."
"If we can get the ball," added West.
"We've got to get it!" cried the captain. "It's the first down. Hold 'em, and throw the man with the ball for a loss if you can. They may kick on the second down instead of waiting for the third. Then we'll have 'em."
The whistle blew and Style came slowly back into the line. He was pale and weak, as the manner in which he gave the signals showed. There were anxious looks on the faces of his mates, and glances of eager expectation on those of his opponents.
Wentworth came smashing for a hole he expected would be opened up between Daly and Shay, but Shay was ready and did more than his partner to block off the play. Wentworth was hurled back, and there was a net loss of two yards to Clifford.
"Look out for a kick!" warned Frank.
It came, for Clifford was desperately afraid, and Comfort got the ball. Tucking it under his arm, with head down, he started for the goal line, well protected. The enraged Clifford players managed to get at him, however, and he was downed after he had covered fifteen yards. But it was a good run back, and Columbia had the ball, and there were still several more minutes to play.
"At 'em now, fellows! Tear 'em apart!" cried Lanky Wallace.
He called for Ralph West to take the ball around Smith, as the quarter had noticed the weak defense the right end was putting up.
Around circled West, and he made a good gain before he was downed. Again came smashing plays—several of them, Columbia keeping possession of the ball. In vain did Clifford brace and hold. It was useless. She was being shoved right up the field. Her men were exhausted and discouraged. Columbia's were eager and triumphant.
"Touchdown! Touchdown!" came the insisting cries from the spectators. The ball was on Clifford's fifteen-yard line.
"Touchdown it is!" declared Wallace grimly.
He called his signal with snap and vim. Frank got the ball and made a desperate dive for a big gap that was opened up between Roe and McQuirk. Forward he staggered while Shadduck and Oakes managed to circle around to form interference for him.
"He's through! He's through!" came the cry, and indeed the captain was through the Clifford line, and legging it toward the goal. Hastings started after him, but slipped and fell. Then, like a flash, Wentworth emerged from the tangle of players and set off after Allen. He came on like the wind, and managed to slip past Shadduck, but Oakes was on the alert and tackled off the plucky Clifford right-half.
Then it was all over but the shouting. With the fall of Wentworth ended Clifford's hopes of preventing another touchdown, while as for her own hopes of making one they had vanished some time ago. Allen touched down the ball. Amid frenzied cheers the goal was kicked, making the score nineteen to five in favor of Columbia. There was preparation for another kick-off, but before it could be made the whistle blew; and the game had passed into history.
DR. SHADDUCK FEARS AN EPIDEMIC
"There he is!"
"Cut him off; he's trying to dodge us!"
"No you don't, Frank; we're just bound to give you a ride around. These things don't happen every day. Up with him, fellows!"
Fully fifty wild Columbia students had gathered around the captain, effectually blocking his escape from the field. Frank, suspecting some such design, had tried his best to slip off unobserved; but hundreds of eyes were on him, and even his fellow players showed treachery, handing him over to the crowd.
He was immediately hoisted upon the shoulders of several brawny chaps, and with a motley crowd following, after they set out to parade the field, shouting the battle cry of the school, and singing the famous song that always thrilled the hearts of Columbia's patriotic sons and daughters.
Those who had remained in the grandstand cheered as the procession swept past, and among these was Minnie Cuthbert. Frank never looked that way once, she noted, and yet there had been a time, not so very far back, when he would have thought of her the first thing.
And yet Frank was perfectly conscious that she was standing there, leaning over the railing, and watching the fun with eagerness. Sometimes it is possible to see without looking direct.
When he could escape Frank hurried home. He was of course overjoyed to realize that his team had won the game; but the strain of those last ten minutes had been simply terrific. What would it be with the Bellport eleven, every member of which had undoubtedly been present, picking up points that would be useful in the big Thanksgiving Day game?
Of course there must a celebration that night. Victory deserved something of the sort, and the boys were bound to make the fact known to every citizen of the town. Fires would be blazing, horns tooting, firecrackers exploding, and a general hurrah taking place, with crowds of students, roaming around, and ringing the various college songs they loved so well.
Frank found a warm welcome at his home. His father declared he was proud of the fact that he had a boy so well able to manage affairs of great moment. It was a great day at the Allen house, and Helen, for the time being, even forgot her grief in connection with the unexplained desertion of her once fondly loved chum, Minnie Cuthbert.
Just after lunch Frank was called to the telephone. Ralph had dropped in to talk over matters connected with the game, which, of course, must be the one important topic of conversation among the Columbia students until the concluding meeting came about that would settle the championship.
"Hello! who's this?" Frank asked, as he picked up the receiver, and placed it at his ear.
A laugh was the first sound he heard.
"That you, Bones?" he demanded, thinking he recognized a peculiarity about this chuckle that stamped the identity of the one who seemed so merry.
"Sure; that you, Frank? Say, it's an epidemic that's struck us!" called the one at the other end of the wire.
"What do you mean. Make it plainer; I'm all up in the air," answered Frank, who knew Bones was a great fellow for joking, and wondered what he had in hand now.
"They had my dad guessing some, I tell you. He began to think it was his duty to warn the town authorities so that they could take proper precautions; for honest now, it did look like the whole place was overrun with frisky canines, snapping at every one they met!"
"What's that you say?" asked Frank, pricking up his ears at the mention of dogs; for the memory of several recent experiences was fresh in his mind.
"Why, you see, every one's getting bitten. It's the latest fad. My dad had just three come to him early this morning to have wounds cauterized to make sure!"
"Good gracious! you don't say?" ejaculated Frank, waiting for further explanations, which he knew would not be long in coming.
"Yes, and the funny part of it is all of them were boys. The dogs seem to have taken a great fancy for the breed. Guess you could give a close hazard about who they were. Perhaps you know their limp, for they showed it plain enough at the game," went on Bones, with another series of chuckles.
"I saw Bill Klemm rubbing his calf and talking to Jay Tweedle; yes, and when they walked off I thought each of them seemed to have a stiff leg. How about that; were they to see the doctor?" asked the captain of the football team, eagerly.
"Sure as you live, and Asa Barnes ditto. Asa said he was passing an empty lot last night when a brindle cur just deliberately jumped out and nabbed him. Of course he kicked the beast away, and it ran off howling; but his father, on being told the circumstances this morning, thought he ought to have a little caustic applied so as to take no chances. Think of it—a brindle cur, and that sneak kicked him! Oh! my!"
"And where did Bill say he got his dose from?"
"He's got a little bit of a poodle, you know. Well, he had the nerve to declare the baby beast bit him! Dad said he found it hard to believe, for judging from the marks of the teeth it was a jaw three times as big as Tiny's that did the business. Dad knows better now."
"Then you told him all about Kaiser's work last night?"
"Sure; I had to. He was for putting off to warn the town police to look out for all brindle dogs, and shoot 'em on the spot—which spot I don't know. But you see, somebody had told him about Kaiser acting that way at the field, and he was ready to order him massacred before he went mad too. So I had to relate the dreadful story of how Bill and Asa and Jay got their little tattoo marks."
"What did he say then?" asked Frank, greatly amused.
"Nearly took a fit laughing over it. Instead of being chloroformed or otherwise exterminated Kaiser is going to get a new collar now, dad's especial gift. Hurrah for Kaiser! He's the whole circus every time!"
"Yes," said Frank, quickly, "he came near getting his finish though to-day. Old Officer Whalen was on his trail and meant to fill him full of holes, if he could ever get close enough. It was a narrow escape for Kaiser."
"A narrower one for the crowd. Did you ever see Officer Whalen practice firing at a mark? Well, I have. The man couldn't hit a barn door thirty feet off. Can't you come over, Frank? I've got something to propose to you. The afternoon is too fine and bracing to stay cooped up in the house. We'll soon have to hibernate, you know. Come along!" called Bones.
"Ralph is with me."
"All right. Bring him along. Glad to have him."
"Look for us soon then. I've got something I want to ask you anyway. Good-bye," and Frank turned from the phone to explain to the wondering Ralph just why he had been so overcome with merriment.
Of course Ralph thought the joke a good one when he too heard the particulars of the sudden run upon the good doctor's supply of liquid caustic.
"No wonder they limped after all that; the remedy was worse than the disease, I reckon. I don't suppose anything serious will come out of those bites now?" he said, after he had stopped laughing.
"Oh! hardly. Thousands are bitten every year by angry dogs, and how few cases of hydrophobia you hear about. They'll limp around a little while and then forget all about it But Bones wants us to come over to his house, so if you have no objections we'll just saunter across lots and see what he's got going."
"Just as you say." remarked Ralph, rising immediately; "though unless you object I thought of dropping in at the post-office on the way. There's a mail in, and possibly a letter might come for me that I could get before the carrier came around."
Frank looked at him with pity in his eyes. He knew how secretly Ralph was suffering all the pangs that can come with hope long deferred; and that each day seemed like an eternity to the boy who was yearning to feel the loving arms of a mother about his neck, a mother whom he had never known.
"Certainly; that's only a step out of the way. But be careful as you go, and if you see a brindle pup in a vacant lot run for your life! They're mighty dangerous, I'm told," at which both boys laughed again, and the cloud passed from Ralph's rather pale face.
As chance would have it, as they issued from the front door a vehicle passed the house, and in it were seated Minnie Cuthbert and Lef Seller, the fellow whom she had more than once declared she never meant to speak to again. It was Lef's rig, and the object he had in view in thus deliberately passing Frank's home was obvious.
Frank, after that one start, was prepared. He immediately doffed his cap with the most excruciating politeness. Minnie turned white, then red. She hardly knew what to do under the circumstances; but found herself nodding her head as though she could not help it, even after cutting Frank on the preceding day.
Frank saw the grin of triumph on the face of his rival, but though his blood was fairly boiling with indignation at his coming out of the way to let him see their renewal of friendship, he simply looked after the vehicle and smiled.
Ralph was chuckling as if amused.
"Sometimes girls' friendships are so quickly changed they make me think of that wonderful Finnegan and his report of the accident on his section of the railroad. You know how his boss had taken him to task because he stretched things out so. When the old train had another wreck he just wrote out his report: 'Off again, on again, gone again, Finnegan.' Yesterday it was you, to-day Lef, and tomorrow—well, tomorrow hasn't come yet, so we won't anticipate. Come along, Frank," and linking his arm in that of his chum, Ralph drew him away.
And in the lively talk that followed Frank soon forgot his bitter feeling at the strange actions of the pretty girl he had once thought so charming.
THE GREAT MARSH
"Glad to see you, fellows! Say, by the way, I hear that Clifford won the great football match against Columbia!" was the way the way Bones Shadduck greeted them as they reached his door and rang the bell.
"You don't tell me," said Frank, with a smile; "when did it happen?"
"Oh! last night some time. It was a great victory. I'm told they nearly painted the town red over it," responded the other.
"Well, for my part I prefer to do the celebrating after the thing is over to shouting before hand. Perhaps they celebrated too hard, and that might account for several fool plays that were made. I had an idea that several of Clifford's best players looked rather red-eyed, as though they didn't get much sleep," remarked Frank, as they entered.
"And I shouldn't be surprised if you were right. I was told they had a dance and it was all hours of the morning when they went home," echoed Bones.
"But what did you want us over for in particular?" asked Frank.
"Something to show you and then a proposal to make. I had a birthday to-day, and my dad's been mighty good to me. What do you think of that?"
Bones whipped out a beautiful shotgun from behind a case and handed it over to the others to admire.
"Looks like a dandy, all right. And I wager she'll do some good work when you get to looking over the sights. Handles great, too. Although I think I like my own gun a little the better, still that's only a matter of prejudice. You're lucky to have such a dad, Bones," remarked Frank, as he drew an imaginary bead on some object seen out of the window.
"And now for my proposal. I'm just wild to try the new gun, and I had word from father's farmer, Benson, that the ducks were in the old swamp that adjoins our big patch of ground over Wheaten way. I can get our horse and the three of us might take a spin over to see what we can do," suggested Bones, eagerly.
"But I thought duck shooting was always done in the early morning?" ventured Ralph.
"It usually is; but in some localities there is apt to be a good evening flight. That happens to be the case over at the swamp. I've seen them come in there to spend the night by twos and dozens, until the air was thick with them. And I've had the best sport of my life in knocking them over on a runway, or rather flyway. Say you'll go, Frank?" pleaded the enthusiastic sportsman.
"Well," answered the one addressed, "it always appeals to me, and in this case I'd just as soon be away from town to-night, because the boys are going to do stunts, and they hinted that they might get hold of me to ride me around, something I object to seriously, on general principles. So far as I'm concerned I'll be delighted to go along, Bones."
"Ditto here," exclaimed Ralph; "only I shall have to go to be the pick-up, for I haven't got a gun. I used to handle an old one of Mr. West's, but, of course, didn't bring it along with me."
"Oh! that's easily fixed. If you don't mind you can use my old one. She's a steady shooter. If you cover your bird you get him every time. And I've got plenty of shells. Suppose you chase back and get your double-barrel, Frank, while I see about the rig. Ralph will stay with me and help, I know."
It was speedily arranged and Frank, on returning with his gun, found the others ready to make a start. Just as he had said the arrangement pleased him first-rate, for he really did want to get out of town until a late hour that night. It was not at all to the liking of the football captain to be carried around on show, just as if he were a hero on exhibition; especially when he avowed that he deserved not one whit more honor for the victory than each other member of the team.
"I hope they get Lanky, and trot him around some to see how he likes it. He was scolding me for not behaving right to the boys to-day, when they grabbed me on the field after the game. I'd give something to see him wallowing around on a platform and made to bow to the right and to the left, over and over again."
All of them laughed heartily at the picture Frank conjured up. Then they clambered into the vehicle and the start was made.
They had been wise enough to hide the guns, so that while some of the boys who were on the streets saw them ride off, they had no suspicion that the one bright particular star of the intended celebration intended to be far away at the time.
It was a ride of more than ten miles. The horse, while not a fast animal, could keep up a steady pace, and in good time they arrived at the farm which Doctor Shadduck owned.
As the afternoon was passing, and night comes early after the middle of November, the three young sportsmen hastened to head for the swamp where they anticipated having an hour or so of pleasure before dark actually shut in.
Bones had often come up here on a similar errand, though this was his first visit this year. Still, he kept things in such shape that there was little time wasted making the necessary arrangements.
He had a few painted decoys that had seen much service and these they carried along with them from the house.
Seeing Frank curiously examining one of the stools he carried, Bones broke out into a hearty laugh.
"Wondering what peppered that wooden decoy so, eh, Frank? I'll tell you, though you'll never enjoy the story as much as I did the actual thing. I had a cousin up here last winter. He was from New York City, and had never shot at real game, though he was a deadly marksman when it came to the trap, and could break bats and clay pigeons right along."
"I've seen the breed," commented Frank, with a grin.
"Well, when we came crawling out here I forgot that I had asked Benson to put my little flock of decoys out for me. The first thing I knew I heard a bang close to my ear, and then a second shot, after which Cousin Hal jumped up shouting that he had knocked over the entire bunch. He had, but you ought to have seen his look when I sent him wading out to retrieve the game. Still, he laughed himself at the joke, and begged me not to tell it till after he left."
"I guess they'll float about as well as ever, even if weighted down with shot. Have you got a boat up here, Bones?" asked Ralph.
"Sure I have, and a dandy one to shoot out of, being flat-bottomed and steady as a church floor. But I only use it to retrieve the game generally; because you see, we can shoot from the land as the ducks fly over to enter the swamp."
Frank had often heard of this style of shooting, and wanted to try it; so that he was very glad he had come. After the tremendous strain of the morning some relaxation of this kind would be a good thing too, for all of them.
"I told my people not to expect me home to supper; and also that they might be having game tomorrow for dinner, if we were lucky," remarked Frank.
"And nobody will bother whether I show up or not," observed Ralph, with a nervous little laugh.
"Never mind, old chap, I calculate that there's going to come a decided change in your condition before a great while. You're showing true grit in bearing up as well as you do. Any day you may get the letter that tells you the ones you look for are on the way here. Then your troubles will be all in the past. Hello! how's this Bones? Have we arrived?" and Frank looked around curiously when the guide came to a sudden halt.
"Here we are, fellows. You see that abrupt break in the heavy line of trees. It seems to form a sort of avenue, and the ducks in flying toward the swamp just naturally drive into it, following after each other as though it were really a road. In fact, few of them ever enter the swamp by any other way than this."
"If we're going to shoot over a place like this, as the ducks come in, why the decoys?" asked Ralph.
Bones laughed as he replied:
"I generally keep them out here during the season, in a little shelter I have. Nothing like making fellows useful, you know; and while we were coming I thought three could carry them better than one! Sort of making you work your passage, see?"
Knowing the ground, and the habits of the waterfowl, Bones quickly placed his two friends. Then they anxiously awaited the coming of the first game.
A sort of routine had been arranged. This was to prevent any waste of ammunition, through two of them shooting at the same quarry.
"Frank, you try the first chap, Ralph the second, and I'll experiment with my new gun when the next pilgrim spins along. Don't forget that they are swift customers right here, and the chances are you'll shoot back of them," said Bones, as they stood at their posts.
"There, Frank!" exclaimed Ralph, as a couple of dark objects suddenly burst into view, and sped past them.
But Frank was not taken unawares. He had shot ducks more than once before, and knew how to properly gauge their flight. Beginning a little behind the pair he swept his gun forward so as to pass them; and at just the instant it covered the game in its swinging movement he pressed the trigger.
One of the ducks fell, stone dead, and the other went on with diminished speed as though crippled. Almost instantly the second barrel spoke, and this time down came the second bird.
"Fine!" exclaimed Bones, who had never seen Frank shoot before; "why, really, I'm ashamed to show my clumsiness before such a crack shot."
"None of that, now. And don't believe I can do that sort of work right along. Next time it may be a clean double miss. Ducks are unreliable things. I've known the best of shots to miss, time and again. Ralph, step up and toe the mark. You're next on the docket," laughed Frank, as he hastily replaced the discharged shells with fresh ones.
"Better retrieve your game while the balance of us keep a lookout. Otherwise we'll get things mixed, and perhaps lose some of it. Did you mark the places?" said the host of the little hunt.
"Oh! yes, I always do that. It gets to be a habit with any fellow who hunts much. I think they fell dead, so I oughtn't to have much trouble," replied Frank.
"Beware the oozy spots along the border of the marsh. I've had no end of trouble getting stuck instead of duck," called out Bones, as the other moved away, carrying his gun along with him as a wise hunter always does.
Just as he retrieved the second victim to his accuracy he heard a single shot, and a heavy body fell not ten feet away. Ralph had dropped his first duck also.
"There you are," remarked Frank, throwing the three birds down, as he returned to the rendezvous; "and they do certainly look fine and plump. Reckon you have quite a few muskrats in this old marsh of yours, Bones. I saw a lot of houses in the water, made of sticks and trash?"
"I was told there were. Of course I've seen the little varmints at times, when I've been hiding in a duck-blind; but they never trouble me, and I don't go out of my way to interfere with them. Ah! there!"
He threw up his gun, and a second later two shots rang out in rapid succession. Quite a bunch of teal had swung into the avenue, heading for the marsh. They were just everlastingly hurrying, as Ralph said, and while Bones succeeded in knocking down a couple, one only wounded, which he never did find, he declared he ought to be ashamed for not doing better.
"Still, I like the feel of the gun all right. I'll do something worth while when I get used to the hang of it," he remarked, as he went off to look for his game.
Then Frank had another chance. Sometimes the ducks were higher up; then again they came at such speed that it was next to impossible to make a hit.
So the fun went on for three-quarters of an hour. It was actually getting dusk, and the flight seemed about over. Ralph had dropped a single duck, and gone off to try and find it, though Bones said he doubted whether he would succeed, because of the gathering gloom.
About five minutes afterwards, as he and Frank were sitting there on the log, exchanging stories of former hunts, they heard Ralph calling.
"Hello! what's the matter?" exclaimed Frank, starting up.
"I don't know, but I can give a pretty good guess," remarked Bones; and then elevating his voice, he shouted:
"What d'ye want, Ralph?"
"Better drop over here, please!" came the reply.
"He's in some sort of trouble," suggested Frank, judging from the half apologetic tone of his chum.
"Yes, and I expect stuck in the ooze of the marsh, worse luck!" grunted Bones.
THE DANGERS OF THE MUCK HOLE
"Where are you?" called Bones, as he and Frank pushed forward in the gathering dusk.
"Here! Be mighty careful, fellows, or you'll get in too!" came the answer, not far away.
"Told you so," remarked the doctor's son, with a little laugh; "poor Ralph; I pity him, because I've been there myself. When I come alone out here I always carry a short rope along. If I get stuck it helps me out."
"A rope? How under the sun can that help?" demanded a voice close by; showing that they were very near the boy who was stuck in the ooze, and also that he was alive to the inconvenience of his position.
"Why, you see, in most cases there's a limb of a tree hanging over, and it's dead easy to throw the rope across it. After that, one can pull out, unless he's allowed himself to sink too deep. Got a match with you, Frank?" asked Bones.
"Lots. I've found them handy on too many occasions lately to go without. Here you are, Bones. Going to make a fire, are you?" and Frank, bending down, commenced to assist in gathering some dead leaves together.
"Well," replied the other, "we ought to have some light to see how to work him free. It would be a tough joke if the whole bunch of us got stuck. I don't hanker after such an experience. Things are pretty dry up here, so we must be careful not to let the blaze spread any."
The fire was quickly a positive fact, and being fed with some small branches it leaped up grandly. In this fashion the entire neighborhood was illuminated.
Frank looked around. The sight was peculiar, and as the marsh ran into an actual swamp, he thought he had seldom seen a more weird effect. Still, what interested him most of all was the picture of Ralph, up to his knees in the soft slime that lay concealed under the dead leaves and green scum.
"I've tried all I could to get out, fellows, but the worst of it is, when I lift one foot the other only goes that much deeper down. If a fellow could only get hold of enough stuff to make a sort of mattress he might roll over on it and do the trick that way. I'd be trying that if I had daylight, and was alone here," remarked the imprisoned boy, calmly.
"Say, I never thought of that. It's a clever idea, all right. Next time I get stuck I'm going to see how it works," remarked Bones.
"Why not now, since you haven't your rope along. Here's just the ticket—some old fence rails lying in a heap. Cheer up, comrade, we'll have you out of that in a jiffy now," sang out Frank, seizing one of the long, cast-off rails, and dropping it on the surface of the muck.
Bones fell to along side, and between them they speedily formed a regular corduroy road out to where Ralph stood, watching the building with interest.
One of them got on either side. Then, with the aid of other rails they pried Ralph loose, so that he could crawl over to the "mattress," and get secure footing. After that nothing was needed but to walk ashore.
"I'm a fine sight, mud up to my knees, my hands full, and I tell you, it isn't just as sweet as it might be," lamented Ralph, as he started to scrape himself off with a splinter.
"Hold on, we'll play valet to you. Take that leg, while I manage this one, Frank," observed Bones, who was really enjoying seeing some other fellow in the same mussy condition that had been his lot more than once.
They scraped so well that presently Ralph declared he felt quite presentable once more.
"But I'll make sure to let nobody see me in this condition," he added; "and this pair of trousers will have to go to the cleaner's Monday morning, you bet."
"Well, are we off now?" asked Frank, as he started to make sure that the fire was extinguished to the last spark.
"That's the ticket, Frank," observed Bones, approvingly, "I like a fire all right, but hate to see it burning up a marsh or a woods. Had one little experience that I aint going to forget in a hurry. I guess she'll do now. Let's shoulder our game and make tracks for the farmhouse. Supper will be ready, I suppose."
"Supper?" echoed Ralph.
"Why, sure. You didn't suppose I meant that we'd go hungry when I invited you to come up here for a little relaxation, after our big strain this morning? Benson promised to have something for us. They're only plain country folks, you know, so don't expect much style, fellows."
"Style!" exclaimed Ralph, with a snort, "do I look like I could put on a heap, with these mussed-up trousers? All I ask is a chance to wash my hands and face. But it was mighty good of you thinking of the grub part, Bones."
"I don't see how. I always eat with Benson when I come up here for a shoot. It was only a case of selfishness. Say, this is something of a load—four apiece all around, and they're heavy chaps, too. This one is so fat he actually burst when he fell."
"But I have no use of any game. Perhaps you'd better give the farmer my share, for his kindness," suggested Ralph.
"That's nice of you, old fellow. And I'll take you up on it, too. Benson has no time to shoot, and I don't believe he knows how; but all the same he does like a taste of game, to sort of change the bill of fare. Follow me, now, for the house."
Bones led the way, and presently they arrived at the farmhouse, a low-roofed building, where light gleamed cheerily in the small windows. Benson had a wife and several small children. The table was set, country fashion, right at one end of the big kitchen, and the odors that greeted the hungry and cold boys as they entered certainly promised an appetizing repast.
Ralph was soon made happy with a tin basin and a bucket of water. He managed to repair damages pretty well, and was only too willing to respond to the farmer's hearty invitation to take a chair and "set-to."
Perhaps it was their sharp-set appetites that made them think the food tasted unusually fine. No matter, there was a great abundance, and by the time they got up from the table every fellow declared he could not eat another mouthful if he were paid for it.
"I'll have your rig at the door in short order," declared Benson, as he went out with a lantern.
With a ten-mile drive, and a horse far from fresh, Bones had decided that they would do well to start without any delay. He had tried out his gun, and was satisfied; while on Frank's part, he rejoiced in the fact that he would be away from town while all the glorification was going on.
"Hold on, Mr. Benson, that's enough. Eight is all we want to take back with us. Ralph here is boarding and has no use for his share. So he asks you to accept it," called out Bones, as the farmer started to toss the game in the back part of the doctor's buggy. "That's kind o' him, and I'm sure much obliged. We don't get any too much game up here, close as we are to the marsh. I'm too busy, you see, and then besides, I never was a great hand to shoot. In summer I pull in quite some fish at odd times, and that's all the sport I take."
It was about eight o'clock when they finally left the farmhouse. The good wife and the three children called out good-bye, as Bones chucked to the horse, and they were off.
"It won't be so awful dark on the road, for there's a half moon peeping out up yonder behind those clouds," said Frank.
"Glad of that," returned Bones, who was doing the driving, "because you see, the road is pretty rough till we get on the main one, and if it was pitch dark we might stand for getting tumbled into a ditch alongside. There are same nasty places I've got to look out for. I know them pretty well though; ought to, for I've been in two of 'em."
"We'll help you look out then. I wouldn't hanker after a tumble into a muddy ditch just now," laughed Frank.
"Think of me, fellows! Why, my lower extremities are still damp from one trip. That was bad enough, but think of going in head first! Ugh! excuse me, if you please!" groaned Ralph.
They made out to get along with little or no trouble. The horse kept the middle of the road as a rule, and three pair of keen eyes were quite enough to pilot the vehicle along toward the junction of the two thoroughfares.
When the firmer road was reached Bones declared he was glad.
"Now we needn't worry, boys. Get-up, Strawberry; it's home for you and another measure of oats. I had the farmer give him only a small quantity. Keep a horse a bit hungry if you want him to hustle for home," he remarked.
"Sounds reasonable at any rate, Bones. And Strawberry is doing pretty good hustling right now, considering the heavy condition of our weight, in the way of game. My folks will think I'm something on the shoot, I guess," remarked Frank, humorously.
"You really got seven—" began Ralph, when his friend interrupted.
"Never mind about that. One fellow is always lucky above the rest. Never knew it to fail. To-day it might be me, to-morrow you. So it goes. Forget it, both of you."
Ralph said nothing more. He knew the nature of his chum, and that Frank had not a selfish bone in his body. If there was any sport going around he wanted every one to have their full share of it, nor could he rest happy unless this were so.
They had passed over several miles of the main road, and all of them were somehow feeling a bit drowsy from their unusual exertions of the day, when, without warning, the horse snorted and came to a full stop.
"What's this mean?" demanded Bones, in astonishment.
"There's something on the road ahead of us," declared Ralph, bending forward in order to see the better, for the shadows fell across the tree-bordered pike.
"I'm not sure," ventured Frank, "but it seems like some sort of vehicle to me. Perhaps there's been an accident. Wait while I jump out and go to see!"
FRANK TURNS CHAUFFEUR
"Don't you want your gun?" asked Bones, in a low voice, that showed some trace of excitement; for, truth to tell, Bones was inclined to be suspicious by nature, and there had been stories told lately throughout that section, of raids by thieving tramps.
Possibly that may have been one reason why Bones was so desirous of having company on this little excursion up to the farm to try his new gun.
"What for?" asked Frank, surprised, as he dropped out of the vehicle.
"Oh! there's no telling. This may be just a trap to stop any travelers and make them hand over. It's been done before. I'd hate to lose my double-barrel the first thing."
He was groping under the seat for the aforesaid article at that very moment, as though he would feel safer with it in his hands.
But Frank laughed scornfully.
"Don't you believe it, Bones. Ten to one this is some vehicle that has left the road and gone into the ditch. I'm only afraid I may find the driver badly hurt in being thrown out, that's all."
He left the buggy as he spoke, and walked hastily forward toward the dark object that seemed to be half on the road and partly among the trees. "Why, it looks like an automobile," said Frank to himself, as he came closer; and five seconds later he added positively, "That's just what it is. I wonder what's happened now?"
He soon knew. Upon reaching the scene he found that the car must have suddenly swerved from the road and struck a tree, head on. It could not have been going at a very rapid pace at the time, for although some damage had been done to the hood, and one of the lamps seemed to be smashed, the machine did not appear badly damaged.
Some one was grunting close by, and as Frank drew near he saw a figure crawling out from the bushes.
"What's happened here?" he asked, promptly.
The figure of a man started up, and as Frank struck a match he saw that the other seemed to be decently dressed, although his clothes were somewhat torn after his headlong flight in among the bushes.
"We had an accident," muttered the man, staring hard at him; and Frank thought with a look not unlike suspicion on his scratched face.
"I see you had," returned Frank, at the same time noting almost unconsciously from the way the machine headed they must have been coming away from Columbia at the time; "but you speak as if there might be another party along with you. Did he get tossed out too when you hit the tree?"
"I don't know. I wasn't seeing anything just then but a million stars. He don't seem to be in the car, does he?" ventured the other, who was rubbing himself all over as if trying to ascertain whether any ribs, or other bones, had been broken in his rough experience.
"Then he must be in the bushes, the same as you, though it's a miracle how he went out, being behind the steering wheel; and also how he missed hitting this tree. Fortunately it happens to be a small one. Let's look and see."
As he spoke Frank lit another match and started to examine the bushes alongside the stranded car and beyond. By the time he had used three matches success rewarded his efforts, for they found the man.
"He's dead!" exclaimed the stranger, in horrified tones.
"Oh! perhaps not. He may only have fainted from the shock," and lying down, the boy put his head down close to the chest of the motionless man.
"His heart is beating and that proves he is alive. Take hold here and we'll carry him to the car. Perhaps he'll come to his senses when I dash a little water in his face. Lift his heels and I'll look after his head," and Frank took hold of the broad shoulders as he spoke.
In this fashion they managed to move the unconscious man to the road. He was laid down alongside the car. Meanwhile, the other two boys had come up, Bones urging the frightened horse along with the whip.
"What is it, Frank?" asked Ralph, jumping out.
"Been an accident; a car rammed a tree. Both passengers thrown out, and one of them is injured; Anyhow he seems to have been knocked senseless. I'm going to get a little water in my cap and try to bring him to," with which Frank darted to the other side of the road, where his quick ear caught the trickling sound of a small stream gurgling among mossy stones.
He was back in less than a minute, and immediately started splashing some of the water in the face of the unconscious man.
"He's coming around," said the other man, watching these operations with eager eyes; and who several times looked at the three boys as though wondering what they could be doing there on that lonely road at such a late hour, for it was now past nine o'clock.
Frank turned aside to see whether he could not light the remaining lamp of the car, which did not appear to have been broken, and had possibly only gone out through the sudden concussion, as acetyline burners often will.
He found that it was readily made to shed light again, and once his work here had been done it was only natural for the boy who delighted in machinery of all kinds to take a hasty look at the car.
"I think it might run still. Nothing vital seems to be broken, anyhow," he said aloud, as he came back to the little group.
The second man was recovering, but groaning more or less.
"He ought to be taken to your house, Bones, to let your father examine him. I'm afraid he may be badly hurt," said Frank; "if you can help him into the tonneau of the machine I'll try and see if it will work."
"Say, can you run it?" asked the second man, eagerly.
"I know something about cars; enough to drive this one, if it isn't damaged in its working parts. I couldn't guarantee to patch it up, though. Wait and let me see."
He bent over the car, and presently gave the crank a couple of whirls to turn over the engine. Sure enough, there was an immediate response, and the whirring that followed announced that, strange to say, the machine had not been vitally injured in the smashup, though badly damaged with regard to looks.
Frank backed out, and with a few deft manipulations that proved the truth of his assertion that he could run a car, managed to head the machine once more toward Columbia. Neither of the men seemed to notice just what he was doing. The one who had appeared to Frank first was bending down over his friend, and they were holding a whispered conversation.
"Put him in; now Ralph," said the new chauffeur, quietly, "you and Bones come along after, and leave my gun and the ducks at my house. I'll be home long before you get there, I reckon, unless this old machine takes a notion to be tricky again and dump us."
Still groaning, the man was lifted into the tonneau.
"How do you feel, sir?" asked Frank, solicitously; although, truth to tell, he could not say that he liked the looks of either of the parties, judging from what little he had seen of them by the light of the lone lamp.
"Pretty bum, boy. The trouble is, my right arm hangs down like it might be broken; and without it I can't handle the wheel, you see. My friend here don't know nothing about a machine, the worse luck. So I don't see but what we've just got to let you do the drivin' for us. It's nice in you proposin' it, too. Ugh! that hurts some, I tell you!"
The man accompanied his words with more or less vehement expressions that did not raise him the slightest in the estimation of Frank. However, he was evidently in great bodily pain, and that might in some measure excuse his strong language.
The second traveler got in alongside his friend, as though he feared he might be needed sooner or later, if the other started to faint again.
"I'm going to get you to a doctor as soon as possible," remarked Frank, as he started off.
He heard the calls of his chums and answered back. Then the car lost the slow-moving buggy on the road. Frank did not dare drive very fast. He was not familiar with the machine; and besides, possibly it was acting freakish—at least the man declared that it had jumped aside straight at that tree without his doing anything. On his part Frank accepted this version with a grain of allowance; for he had long since scented liquor around, and could guess the real reason for the accident.
As he guided the car Frank could hear the two men talking behind him. The murmur of their voices just reached him, though he could not make out anything they said.
Once the man who had come out of the mishap in better trim than his companion seemed to be groping around under the seats as if searching for something.
"It's here, all right, Jim!" Frank heard him say, in a satisfied tone.
A minute later he was asking about the road, where it led, and what the intentions of the boy at the wheel were. Frank repeated what he had said before, to the effect that he thought the wounded man ought to see a physician with as little delay as possible, and therefore he was heading back to Columbia so as to take him to Dr. Shadduck.
"Who?" exclaimed the wounded man, as the name was mentioned.
"Doctor Shadduck, the father of one of my chums, who was with me duck shooting," replied Frank, thinking it strange why the man while apparently suffering so much should care who attended him, just so long as he could get relief speedily.
Again the two men conferred in low tones. Frank could hear the wounded one muttering again. Perhaps his arm had commenced to hurt once more; or, it may have been something else that started him off.
And even while Frank was wondering who these parties could be anyway, with their strange actions and apparent unwillingness to return to Columbia, which place they must have recently left, a heavy hand was laid on his arm, and a voice said:
"Say, look here, we don't want to go to Columbia, and what's more, we ain't meaning to let you take us there! Just ahead is a road that runs off from this. They told us it runs over to Fayette. Perhaps you don't want to go that way, but forget all that and turn off, because you've just got to take us! No words now, but shove us along lively!"
AN UNWILLING PILOT
Frank Allen felt a sudden thrill shoot through his entire body when the gruff command to change his course was growled into his ear.
He had not been at all inclined to look upon these two travelers in a favorable light; but this was the first intimation he received that they might be even worse than they appeared.
Of course he made no immediate reply. In fact, he was still dazed by this puzzling turn in the strange little adventure. He had believed that in helping the luckless victims of the accident he was furthering his own interests, in that he would reach home long before his chums. Now it began to look as though he had jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
He tried to collect his thoughts and reason out the case. Why should these men so seriously object to returning to the town of Columbia? Had they been guilty of doing something unlawful that made the place dangerous to them?
Once before Frank had become mixed up with a clique of men for whom Chief of Police Hogg had warrants. He remembered the circumstance clearly, and wondered whether history could be about to repeat itself again.
And then, why should the mention of Doctor Shadduck's name affect them both in that strange fashion? Did they know the foremost physician of Columbia, a man of considerable property interests, and said to be the wealthiest man in the county?
Frank came near exclaiming these words aloud, so abruptly did they form in his mind! Now he remembered why the automobile had somehow seemed familiar to him, and why Bones had shown such interest in it.
"Bones thought it was an exact duplicate of the new machine his father bought last week; but I believe it's the doctor's own car! These men have stolen it for some reason or other," Frank was thinking, even while he stared ahead at the white road over which they were moving at a fair rate of speed.
His pulses throbbed with the excitement, even more than when Clifford threatened Columbia's ten-yard line with an irresistible forward rush that morning. Hearing the men talking behind him he strained his ears to try and catch a few words, in the hope that he might discover what it all meant.
"It's all your fault, Bart," grumbled the injured fellow.
"I don't see how you make that out, Jim?" replied the other, gloomily.
"I wanted to turn and head for Fayette, but you said the other road was best," the heavier fellow went on.
"I think so yet, but who'd expect that we'd have such a wreck? I tell you, man, we're mighty lucky to come out of it as well as we did," said the other.
"That's easy for you to say, but my arm feels tough. I reckon she's broke sure enough. That means delay and trouble, just when things looked so bright. It's a shame, that's what. Sure we didn't lose it in the accident, are you, Bart?"
The lighter man seemed to again feel down at his feet.
"I tell you it's there safe and sound. Given four hours, and we'll be where they ain't going to find us. Keep up your nerve, Jim. Luck's still with us, I know," he went on.
"Is it? Well, I'm beginning to suspect there's been a turn in the tide. When the machine took the bit in her mouth and slammed us up against that tree, it looked to me like we had run into bad weather. But we must be near that road, Bart!"
"Reckon it's just ahead now; I remember that big tree we passed comin' out," replied the uninjured one of the precious pair.
"All right. Don't let the kid get past. Seems to me he's some slippery. I seen his face somewhere before," grunted the sufferer.
"Course you did. He was the feller that captained them boys this morning in the game we watched while waitin' for our chance," said the other.
"He was, hey? Well, you want to keep your eye on that boy, then, mark me. They told me some high-colored yarns about him at the inn."
Frank was not in the least elated over hearing himself praised. In truth, just then he was wrestling with the puzzling problem presented by his strange situation.
What "chance" did the man called Bart refer to? Who were these mysterious men, and what did they have in the bottom of the tonneau that seemed so precious in the eyes of the fellow who was badly hurt? He could, for the time being, forget his severe injuries to make inquiries concerning this package, hence it must be of considerable value.
Were they thieves? If this was indeed the new machine belonging to Bones' father, it looked suspicious, to say the least.
What could he do? They wanted him to take them somewhere, and in a hurry, too; were they in full flight, desirous of getting to a certain place before the pursuit became too fierce?
If Frank shivered while considering these momentous things, it could hardly be wondered at. The situation was one to give concern to the bravest man, and, after all, he was but a boy, though possessed of more than the average courage for one of his years.
"There's the road on the left, kid!" suddenly exclaimed Bart.
"I see it, sir," replied the young pilot of the damaged car, trying to keep his voice as steady as possible, in the hope that the two men might not suspect that he had guessed their secret.
"Be sure and turn in; and be careful not to upset us," continued the other.
"Yes," said the wounded fellow, quickly, "one accident is more'n enough for me, to-night. Hey, that's a good sweep around, youngster; I see as you know your business all right. Now, are we headin' straight for Fayette?"
"Yes, sir," replied Frank, readily.
"How far is that away from Columbia?"
"Twelve miles, about, sir, as the road goes," answered the new chauffeur.
"We strike the railroad at Fayette, don't we?" continued Bart, eagerly.
"There is one there, but not the same that comes to Columbia," and when he said that Frank was certain that one of the men chuckled; it must have been Bart, for the wounded fellow was in no mood for merriment, what with his groans and grunts that signified pain.
"That's right. And we're glad to hear it. Wouldn't give a cent for a chance to ride back to your slow old town. New York's good enough for us, hey, Jim."
"It sure is, if I ever live to get there. Wish there happened to be a doctor on this here road somewhere," said the second traveler.
"What for?" asked his comrade, quickly. "I'd get him to take a look at this arm, that's what."
"Huh! dangerous business, Jim. Don't you think of it 'less it's just positively necessary. Delays might cost us dear. There's going to be a big hello when our old friend gets out of that sleep."
Frank realized that the men were apparently getting to that point where they cared little how much he knew. They evidently meant to make such use of him as seemed necessary. Once he thought that it might be a good thing if he pretended to lose control of the car, just as Jim had evidently done. Then he changed his mind, and for two very good reasons.
In the first place, there was always the risk of being hurt himself in the consequent collision with a tree. Frank could not forget that his duty was to keep himself in good condition, so long as his school looked to him to lead his team to victory in the triangular series of football contests. Then, again, he seemed to feel that it would be cowardly to desert the post into which a strange accident had thrust him.
Better stick it out until something cropped up whereby he could make at least a try to defeat the purposes of these two rogues. He had heard enough to want to know more. Probably they would not seek to injure him so long as he made no positive move toward interfering with their game, whatever that might be.
They were talking again. Once more he strained for hearing in the hope of picking up further clues that would enlighten him with regard to their aims.
"It's the safest way, Bart. If they can't get word to Fayette till mornin', we can give 'em the laugh. You've just got to do it," said the wounded man, with a degree of force that marked him as the head of the expedition.
"All right, if you say so, Jim. I'd a done it up the other road, if you hadn't banged us into that tree. Say when," replied the other, who was moving about as though doing something.
Frank managed to take a swift look over his shoulder. It only puzzled him the more, for Jim seemed to be fastening something about the lower part of his legs. What could he want leggings for? And what could it be that Jim insisted he should do?
"I know of a doctor about two miles further on here," Frank said, thinking that it might delay matters some if they concluded to stop over; at least give him a chance to either escape, or render the machine useless for further flight.
"You do, eh? Well, tell us when we get there, and p'raps I might make up my mind to hold over a bit. Are you ready, Bart?" said the heavier man.
"Yes. As well here as anywhere," came the reply.
"Bring her to a stop, kid; here, alongside this telegraph pole. That's good. Now, Bart, do it!"
Frank felt more than curious to know what the men had in mind. As soon as the car came to a stand the lighter man, who had not been hurt in the accident, jumped rather clumsily from the tonneau. Frank noticed this with surprise, for up to now he had looked upon the other as rather agile. Could he have been injured after all, and was just beginning to feel the effect of his headlong plunge into the bushes?
Judge of his utter amazement when he saw Bart at once seize hold of the nearby telegraph pole and begin to climb up with a series of sturdy kicks that apparently glued each foot in succession to the pole. Frank no longer wondered, for he knew that the man had been strapping a pair of lineman's climbing spurs to his legs when bending down in the tonneau of the stolen car!
A DESPERATE REMEDY
"All right, Bart?" called out the man in the car, as the other seemed to have reached the cross-bars far up the pole, over the lower of which he threw a leg, after the confident manner of one accustomed to such antics.
"Sure. It was dead easy," came floating down from above.
"Then get to work, and make a clean job of it. Look here, boy, don't you be thinkin' of leavin' us in the lurch just now. I ain't fit to run this shebang, so we need you, and need you bad. I reckon you know what this is, don't you?" and the fellow showed something that glistened like steel in the mellow moonlight.
Frank could not help feeling a little chill; still, he, was not given to showing the white feather easily.
"Of course I do. It isn't the first time I've seen a revolver," he managed to say, with a nervous little laugh.
"All right, then; don't get gay, and make me ugly, or something might happen. Hey! Bart, why don't you get busy?" raising his voice again.
There was a sharp click, and a clear "tang," as of a strained wire snapping. Frank understood now what was doing. These men had fear of pursuit, and were cutting the telegraph wires in order to prevent direct communication between Columbia and Fayette!
A second and a third metallic "pink" announced that the man up among the cross bars was indeed using his cutters with effect. At that rate he would have the entire sheaf of wires severed in another minute or so.
The matter began to assume gigantic proportions to the boy, as he sat there in the car and listened. Certainly these men must have desperate need for delay in the pursuit, if they went to such extremes in order to accomplish it. And they seemed to have provided against such a contingency, too, which would indicate that they were now only carrying out a part of a well-laid plan.
What could he do? Half a dozen ideas thronged into his brain, but they seemed so utterly useless that he discarded them as fast as they arose. He must in some manner get away from their company before arriving in the neighborhood of Fayette; because if they were as desperate as they appeared the chances were they might see fit to tie him up, and leave him under some farmer's haystack, where he would not be found for hours.
"That light ahead is the doctor's place," he said, finally.
The man called Bart had apparently severed the last of the wires. He was even then coming down the pole hastily, as though eager to be on the move.
"It is, eh?" remarked the other, with a plain sneer, as though he guessed the sudden hope that had leaped into being in the heart of the boy; "well, seein' as how we've been held up here so long I reckon I'll have to let that chance get by me. Seems like I can move that arm a little. P'raps she aint broke after all."
Bart jumped rather clumsily into the car.
"Hit her up now, kid. We ought to make up some for the time we put in here. Been a preachin' to him, ain't you, Jim? It's just as well that he knowed how things lie, 'cause we can't afford to have any foolin'?" he observed.
"I warned him that we wouldn't put up with any hoss play. If he tries to run us into the bushes he's goin' to get himself into a peck o' trouble. Likewise, keep a still tongue in your mouth when we go past the doctor's house; understand!"
Jim thought it good policy to accompany these last words with a vigorous prod between Frank's shoulder blades; and there could be no mistaking the nature of the hard object with which he did this punching.
To tell the truth Frank had really thought of doing some shouting just when they were in front of the little house where the country doctor lived. His plans had been in a sort of chaotic state at best, for he could not see just how anything of this sort might avail to divorce him from the unwelcome company of these two rascals.
"I'm not saying a word," he remarked, with another little nervous laugh, as the speeding machine passed the home of the medical man, perched on a little knoll.
While he bent forward and seemed to be scanning the road ahead, so as to avoid a collision in case they met another vehicle coming the other way, Frank was again doing his best to conjure up some wild plan that might promise him the desired chance to escape from the company of these two desperate men.
He now had not the least doubt but that they were thieves of some sort. What he had heard them say with reference to some person who would not be apt to wake up for several hours, made him think again of Doctor Shadduck.
The gentleman was a rich man, and accustomed to dealing in many enterprises that necessitated the employment of considerable means. Possibly these men had managed to hoodwink the capitalist in some fashion, and when their opportunity came had run away with something valuable belonging to him. They may even have used some of the good doctor's chloroform, or other drugs, to put him in a condition whereby he could not give the alarm or start a pursuit for some hours.