Thereupon Westby became silent, and Irving more than half repented of his speech; he knew that in its reference it had been ill-natured.
He noticed later in the day when he went up to the dormitory that the boys tiptoed about the corridors and conversed in whispers; there was an extravagant air of quiet. When they went down to supper, they tiptoed past Irving's room in single file, saying in unison, "Sh! Sh! Sh!" They all joined in this procession—from Collingwood to Allison. Irving felt that he had taken Allison's place as the laughing-stock, the butt of the dormitory.
In the evening they came to bid him good-night—not straggling up as they usually did, but in a delegation, expectant and amused. Westby and Collingwood were in the van when Irving opened his door in response to the knock.
"We didn't know whether you'd shake hands with two such reprobates or not," said Westby. "We thought it wasn't quite safe to come up alone—so we've brought a bodyguard."
Irving did not smile, though, all the boys were grinning. He shook hands formally with Collingwood, then with Westby, then with the others, saying good-night to each; as they left him, they tiptoed to their rooms. He thought grimly that, whatever might be the sentiments entertained towards him, he would not long be living in an atmosphere of ridicule.
Irving had charge of the "big study," as it was called, during the hour immediately after morning chapel. The boys filed in from chapel and seated themselves at their desks; the members of the Sixth Form, who were privileged to study in their rooms and therefore had no desks in the schoolroom, occupied the stalls along the wall under the big clock. Last of all the rector entered and, mounting the platform, read the "reports" for the day—that is, the names of those who had transgressed and the penalties imposed. After the reading, the Sixth Form went upstairs to their Latin class with Mr. Barclay, and the day's work began.
On the morning following his encounters with Westby and with Collingwood, Irving as usual took charge of the Study. The boys assembled; Irving rang the bell, reducing them to quiet; Dr. Davenport came in, mounted the platform, and took up the report book—in which Irving had just finished transcribing his entries.
Dr. Davenport began reading in his clear, emphatic voice, "Out of bounds, Mason, Sterrett, Coyle, one sheet; late to study, Hart, McQuiston, Durfee, Stratton, Kane, half a sheet; tardy to breakfast—" and so on. None of the offenses were very serious; and the rector read them out rapidly. But at last he paused a moment; and then, looking up from the book, he said, with grave distinctness, "Disorderly in class and insolent, Westby, three sheets; disorderly in dormitory and insolent, Collingwood, three sheets."
He closed the book; a stir, a thrill of interest, ran round the room. For a Sixth Former to be charged with such offenses and condemned to such punishment was rare: for Collingwood, who was in a sense the leader of the school, to be so charged and punished was unprecedented.
Collingwood, sitting directly under the clock, and facing so many curious questioning eyes, turned red; Westby, standing by the door, looked at him and smiled. At the same time, Dr. Davenport, closing the report-book, leaned towards Irving and said quietly in his ear,—
"Mr. Upton, I should like to see you about those last two reports—immediately after this study hour."
Irving reddened; the rector's manner was not approving.
Dr. Davenport descended from the platform and walked slowly down the aisle. As he approached, he looked straight at Westby; and Westby returned the look steadily—as if he was ashamed of nothing.
The rector passed through the doorway; the Sixth Form followed; the day's work began.
MASTER TURNS PUPIL
The rector received Irving with a smile. "Well," he said, "I think you must be a believer in the maxim, 'Hit hard and hit first.' Would you mind telling me what was the trouble?"
"It wasn't so much any one thing," replied Irving. "It was a culmination of little things.—Oh, I suppose I started in wrong with the fellows somehow."
He was silent for a moment, in dejection.
"A good many do that," said Dr. Davenport. "There would be small progress in the world if there never was any rectifying of false starts."
"I can hardly help it if I look young," said Irving. "That's one of my troubles. I suppose I ought to avoid acting young. I haven't, altogether. They call me Kiddy."
"We get hardened to nicknames," observed the rector. "But often they're affectionate. At least I like to cherish that delusion with regard to mine; my legs have the same curve as Napoleon's, and I have been known as 'Old Hoopo' for years."
"But they don't call you that to your face."
"No, not exactly. Have they been calling you 'Kiddy' to your face?"
"It amounts to that." Irving narrated the remarks that he had overheard in dormitory, and then described Westby's performance at the blackboard.
"That certainly deserved rebuke," agreed the rector. "Though I think Westby was attempting to be facetious rather than insolent; I have never seen anything to indicate that he was a malicious boy.—What was it that Louis Collingwood did?"
Irving recited the offense.
"Weren't you a little hasty in assuming that he was trying to tease you?" asked the rector. "When he persisted in wanting to show you how the forward pass is made? I think it's quite likely he was sincere; he's so enthusiastic over football that it doesn't occur to him that others may not share his interest. I don't think Collingwood was trying to be 'fresh.' Of course, he shouldn't have lost his temper and banged the ball at your door—but I think that hardly showed malice."
"It seemed to me it was insolent—and disorderly. I felt the fellows all thought they could do anything with me and I would be afraid to report them. And so I thought I'd show them I wasn't afraid."
"At the same time, three sheets is the heaviest punishment, short of actual suspension, that we inflict. It seems hardly a penalty for heedless or misguided jocularity."
"I think perhaps I was hard on Collingwood," admitted Irving.
"If he comes to you about it—maybe you'll feel disposed to modify the punishment. And possibly the same with Westby."
"I don't feel sure that I've been too hard on Westby."
The rector smiled; he was not displeased at this trace of stubbornness.
"Well, I won't advise you any further about that. Use your own judgment. It takes time for a young man to get his bearings in a place like this.—If you don't mind my saying it," added the rector mildly, "couldn't you be a little more objective in your interests?"
"You mean," said Irving, "less—less self-centred?"
"That's it." The rector smiled.
"I'll try," said Irving humbly.
"All right; good luck." The rector shook hands with him and turned to his desk.
There was no disturbance in the Mathematics class that day. Irving hoped that after the hour Westby and Collingwood might approach him to discuss the justice of the reports which he had given them, and so offer him an opportunity of lightening the punishment. But in this he was disappointed. Nor did they come to him in the noon recess—the usual time for boys who felt themselves wronged to seek out the masters who had wronged them.
Irving debated with himself the advisability of going to the two boys and voluntarily remitting part of their task. But he decided against this; to make the advances and the concession both would be to concede too much.
At luncheon there was an unpleasant moment. No sooner had the boys sat down than Blake, a Fifth Former, called across the table to Westby,—
"Say, Westby, who was it that gave you three sheets?"
Westby scowled and replied,—
"Oh, ask him."
Irving reddened, aware of the glancing, curious gaze of every boy at the table. There was an interesting silence, relieved at last by the appearance of the boy with the mail. Among the letters, Irving found one from Lawrence; he opened it with a sense that it afforded him a momentary refuge. The unintended irony of the first words drew a bitter smile to his lips.
"You are certainly a star teacher," Lawrence wrote, "and I know now what a success you must be making with your new job. I have just learned that I passed all the examinations—which is more than you or I ever dreamed I could do—so I am now a freshman at Harvard without conditions. And it's all due to you; I don't believe there's another man on earth that could have got me through with such a record and in so short a time."
Irving forgot the irony, forgot Westby and Collingwood and the amused, whispering boys. Happiness had suddenly flashed down and caught him up and borne him away to his brother. Lawrence's whole letter was so gay, so exultant, so grateful that Irving, when he finished it, turned back again to the first page. When at last he raised his eyes from it, they dwelt unseeingly upon the boys before him; they held his brother's image, his brother's smile. And from the vision he knew that there at least he had justified himself, whatever might be his failure now; and if he had succeeded once, he could succeed again.
Irving became aware that Westby was treating him with cheerful indifference—ignoring him. He did not care; the letter had put into him new courage. And pretty soon there woke in him along with this courage a gentler spirit; it was all very well for Westby, a boy and therefore under discipline, to exhibit a stiff and haughty pride; but it was hardly admirable that a master should maintain that attitude. The punishment to which he had sentenced Westby and Collingwood was, it appeared, too harsh; if they were so proud that they would not appeal to him to modify it, he would make a sacrifice in the interest of justice.
So after luncheon he followed Westby and spoke to him outside of the dining-room.
"Westby," he said, "do you think that considering the circumstances three sheets is excessive?"
Westby looked surprised; then he shrugged his shoulders.
"I'm not asking any favors," he replied.
Irving laughed. "No," he said, "I see you're not. But I'm afraid I must deny you the pleasure of martyrdom. I'll ask you to take a note to Mr. Elwood—he's in charge of the Study, isn't he? I'll tell him that you're to write a sheet and a half instead of three sheets."
He drew a note-book from his pocket and tore out one of the pages. Westby looked at him curiously—as if in an effort to determine just how poor-spirited this sudden surrender was. Irving spoke again before writing.
"By the way, will you please ask Collingwood to come here?"
When Westby returned with Collingwood, Irving had the note written and handed it to him; there was no excuse for Westby to linger. He went over and waited by the door, while Irving said,—
"Collingwood, why didn't you come up and ask me to reduce your report? Didn't you think it was unfair?"
"Yes," Collingwood answered promptly.
"Well, then—why didn't you come to me and say so?"
Collingwood thought a moment.
"Well," he said, "you had such fun in soaking me that I wasn't going to give you the additional satisfaction of seeing me cry baby."
"I'll learn something about boys sometime—if you fellows will keep on educating me," observed Irving. "I think your performance of yesterday deserves about a sheet; we'll make it that."
He scribbled a note and handed it to the boy.
"Thank you, Mr. Upton." Collingwood tucked the note into his pocket with a friendly smile, and then joined Westby.
"Knock you down to half a sheet?" asked Westby, as they departed in the direction of the Study, where they were to perform their tasks.
"No; a sheet."
"Mine's one and a half now. What got into him?"
"He's not without sense," said Collingwood.
"Ho!" Westby was derisive. "He's soft. He got scared. He knew he'd gone too far—and he was afraid to stand by his guns."
"I don't think so. I think he's just trying to do the right thing."
It was unfortunate for Irving that later in the afternoon Carter of the Fifth Form—who played in the banjo club with Westby—was passing the Study building just as Westby was coming out from his confinement.
"Hello, Wes!" said Carter. "Thought you were in for three sheets; how do you happen to be at large so soon?"
"Kiddy made it one and a half—without my asking him," said Westby.
"And Collingwood the same?"
"He made his only a sheet."
"That's it," said Carter shrewdly. "I was waiting to see the rector this morning; the door was open, and he had Kiddy in there with him. I guess he was lecturing him on those reports; I guess he told him he'd have to take off a couple of sheets."
"I shouldn't wonder," said Westby. "I don't believe old Hoopo would have interfered much on my account,—but I guess he couldn't stand for Lou Collingwood getting three sheets. And Kiddy, the fox, tried to make us think he was being magnanimous!"
Westby chuckled over his humorous discovery, and as soon as possible imparted it to Collingwood.
"Oh, well, what if the rector did make him do it?" said Collingwood. "The way he did it shows he's all right—"
"Trying to get the credit with us for being just and generous!" observed Westby. "Oh, I don't mind; of course it's only Kiddy."
And it was Westby's view of the matter which most of the boys heard and credited. So the improvement in the general attitude for which Irving had hoped was hardly to be noticed. He had some gratification the next Sunday when the roast beef was brought on and he carved it with creditable ease and dispatch; the astonishment of the whole table, and especially of Westby and Carroll, was almost as good as applause. He could not resist saying, in a casual way, "The knife seems to be sharp this Sunday." And he felt that for once Westby was nonplussed.
But the days passed, and Irving felt that he was not getting any nearer to the boys. At his table the talk went on before him, mainly about athletics, about college life, about Europe and automobiles,—all topics from which he seemed strangely remote. It needed only the talk of these experienced youths to make him realize that he had gone through college without ever touching "college life,"—its sports, its social diversions, its adventures. It had been for him a life in a library, in classrooms, in his own one shabby little room,—a cloistered life; in the hard work of it and the successful winning of his way he had been generally contented and happy. But he could not talk to these boys about "college life" as it appeared to them; and they very soon, perhaps by common consent, eliminated him from the conversation. Nor was he able to cope with Westby in the swift, glancing monologues which flowed on and on sometimes, to the vast amusement of the audience. Often to Irving these seemed not very funny, and he did not know which was the more trying—to sit grave and unconcerned in the midst of so much mirth or to keep his mouth stretched in an insincere, wooden smile. Whichever he did, he felt that Westby always was taking notes, to ridicule him afterwards to the other boys.
One habit which Westby had was that of bringing a newspaper to supper and taking the table with him in an excursion over headlines and advertising columns. His mumbling manner, his expertness in bringing out distinctly a ridiculous or incongruous sentence, and his skill in selecting such sentences at a glance always drew attention and applause; he had the comedian's technique.
The boys at the neighboring tables, hearing so much laughter and seeing that Westby was provoking it, would stop eating and twist round and tilt back their chairs and strain their ears eagerly for some fragment of the fun. At last at the head table Mr. Randolph took cognizance of this daily boisterousness, spoke to Irving about it, and asked him to curb it. Irving thereupon suggested to Westby that he refrain from reading his newspaper at table.
"But all the fellows depend on me to keep them au courant, as it were." Westby was fond of dropping into French in his arguments with Irving.
"You will have to choose some other time for it," Irving answered. "I understand that there is a rule against reading newspapers at table, and I think it must be observed."
"Oh, very well,—de bon coeur," said Westby.
The next day at supper he appeared without his newspaper. But in the course of the meal he drew from his pocket some newspaper clippings which he had pasted together and which he began to read in his usual manner. Soon the boys of the table were laughing, soon the boys of the adjacent tables were twisting round and trying to share in the amusement. Westby read in his rapid consecutive way,—
"'Does no good unless taken as directed—pain in the back, loins, or region of the kidneys—danger signal nature hangs out—um—um—um. Mother attacks son with razor, taking tip of left ear. Catcher Dan McQuilligan signs with the Red Sox—The Woman Beautiful—Bright Eyes: Every woman is entitled to a clear, brilliant complexion—um—if she is not so blessed, it is usually her own fault—um—Candidate for pulchritude: reliable beauty shop—do not clip the eyelashes—um.—Domestic science column—Baked quail: pick, draw, and wipe the bird outside and inside; use a wet cloth.—No, Hortense, it is not necessary to offer a young man refreshments during an evening call.'"
Westby was going on and on; he had a hilarious audience now of three tables. From the platform at the end of the dining-room Mr. Randolph looked down and shook his head—shook it emphatically; and Irving, seeing it, understood the signal.
"Westby," said Irving. "Westby!" He had to raise his voice.
"Yes, sir?" Westby looked up innocently.
"I will have to ask you to discontinue your reading."
"But this is not a newspaper."
"It's part of one."
"Yes, sir, but the rule is against bringing newspapers to table—not against bringing newspaper clippings to table."
"The rule's been changed," said Irving. "It now includes clippings."
"You see how it is, fellows." Westby turned to the others. "Persecuted—always persecuted. If I'm within the rules—they change the rules to soak me. Well,"—he folded up his clippings and put them in his pocket,—"the class in current topics is dismissed. But instead Mr. Upton has very kindly consented to entertain us this evening—some of his inimitable chit-chat—"
"I wouldn't always try to be facetious, Westby," said Irving.
"I beg your pardon, sir," replied Westby urbanely. "If I have wounded your sensibilities—I would not do that—never—jamais—pas du tout."
Irving said nothing; it seemed to him that Westby always had the last word; it seemed to him as if Westby was always skillfully tripping him up, executing a derisive flourish over his prostrate form, and then prancing away to the cheers of the populace.
But there were no more violent encounters, such as had taken place in the class-room; Westby never quite crossed the line again; and Irving controlled his temper on threatening occasions. These occurred in dormitory less often; the fine weather and the fall sports—football and tennis and track athletics—kept the boys out-doors. On rainy afternoons there was apt to be some noise and disorder—usually there was what was termed an "Allison hunt," which took various forms, but which, whether resulting in the dismemberment of the boy's room or the pursuit and battery of him with pillows along the corridors, invariably required Irving's interference to quell it. This task of interference, though it was one that he came to perform more and more capably, never grew less distasteful or less humiliating; he saw always the row of faces wearing what he construed as an impudent grin. What seemed to him curious was the fact that Allison after a fashion enjoyed—at least did not resent—the outrages of which he was the subject; after them he would be found sitting amicably with his tormentors, drinking their chocolate and eating their crackers and jam. This was so different from his own attitude after he had been teased that Irving could not understand it. After studying the case, he concluded that the "Allison hunts" were not prompted by any hatred of the subject, but by the fact merely that he was big, clumsy, good-natured, slow-witted—easy to make game of—and especially by the fact that when aroused he showed a certain joyous rage in his own defense. But Irving saw no way of learning a lesson from Allison.
As the days went on, the sense of his isolation in the School became more oppressive. He had thought that if only the fellows would let him alone, he would be contented; he found that was not so. They let him alone now entirely; he envied those masters who were popular—whom boys liked to visit on Sunday evenings, who were consulted about contributions to the Mirror, the school paper, who were invited to meetings of the Stylus, the literary society, who coached the football elevens or went into the Gymnasium and did "stunts" with the boys on the flying rings.
One day when he was walking down to the athletic field with Mr. Barclay, he said something that hinted his wistful and unhappy state of mind. Barclay had suspected it and had been waiting for such an opportunity.
"Why don't you make some interest for yourself which would put you on a footing with the boys—outside of the class-room and the dormitory?" he asked.
"I wish I could. But how?"
"You ought to be able to work up an interest of some sort," said Barclay vaguely.
"I don't know anything about athletics; I'm not musical, I don't seem to be able to be entertaining and talk to the boys. I guess I'm just a grind. I shall never be of much use as a teacher; it's bad enough to feel that you're not up to your job. It's worse when it makes you feel that you're even less up to the job that you hoped to prepare for."
"I meant to study law; I'd like to be a lawyer. But what's the use? If I can't learn to handle boys, how can I ever hope to handle men?—and that's what a lawyer has to do, I suppose."
"Look here," said Barclay. "You're still young; if you've learned what's the matter with you—and you seem to have—you've learned more than most fellows of your age. It's less than a month that you've been here, and you've never had any experience before in dealing with boys. Why should you expect to know it all at once?"
"I suppose there's something in that. But I feel that I haven't it in me ever to get on with them."
"You're doing better now than you did at first; they don't look on you entirely as a joke now, do they?"
"Perhaps not.—Oh," Irving broke out, "I know what the trouble is—I want to be liked—and I suppose I'm not the likeable kind."
Barclay did not at once dispute this statement, and Irving was beginning to feel hurt.
"The point is," said Barclay at last, "that to be liked by boys you've got to like them. If you hold off from them and distrust them and try to wrap yourself up in a cloak of dignity or mystery, they won't like you because they won't know you. If you show an interest in them and their interests, you can be as stern with them as justice demands, and they won't lay it up against you. But if you don't show an interest—why, you can't expect them to have an interest in you."
They turned a bend in the road; the athletic field lay spread out before them. In different parts of it half a dozen football elevens were engaged in practice; on the tennis courts near the athletic house boys in white trousers and sweaters were playing; on the track encircling the football field other boys more lightly clad were sprinting or jogging round in practice for long-distance runs; a few sauntered about as spectators, with hands in their overcoat pockets.
"There," said Barclay, indicating a group of these idle observers, "you can at least do that."
"But what's the use?"
"Make yourself a critic; pick out eight or ten fellows to watch especially. In football or tennis or running. It doesn't much matter. If they find you're taking an intelligent interest in what they're doing, they'll be pleased. Westby, for instance, is running; he's entered for the hundred yards in the fall games,—likely to win it, too. Westby's your greatest trial, isn't he? Then why don't you make a point of watching him?—Not too obviously, of course. Come round with me; I'm coaching some of the runners for the next half-hour, and then Collingwood wants me to give his ends a little instruction."
"Dear me! If I'd only been an athlete instead of a student in college!" sighed Irving whimsically.
"You don't need to be much of an athlete to coach; I never was so very much," confided Barclay. "But there are things you can learn by looking on." They had reached the edge of the track; Barclay clapped his hands. "No, no, Roberts!" The boy who was practising the start for a sprint looked up. "You mustn't reel all over the track that way when you start; you'd make a foul. Keep your elbows in, and run straight."
Irving followed Barclay round and tried to grasp the significance of his comments. Dennison came by at a trot.
"Longer stride, Dennison! Your running's choppy! Lengthen out, lengthen out! That's better.—I have it!"
Barclay turned suddenly to Irving.
"The thing for you to do. We'll make you an official at the track games next week. That will give you a standing at once—show everybody that you are really a keen follower of sport—or want to be."
"But what can I do? I suppose an official has to do something."
"You can be starter. That will put you right in touch with the fellows that are entered."
"Would I have a revolver? I've never fired a gun off in my life."
"Then it's time you did. Of course you'll have a revolver. And you'll be the noisiest, most important man on the field. That's what you need to make yourself; wake the fellows up to what you really are!—Now I must be off to my football men; you'd better hang round here and pick up what you can about running. And remember—you're to act as starter."
"If you'll see me through."
"I'll see you through."
Barclay waved his hand and swung off across the field.
THE PENALTY FOR A FOUL
How it was managed Irving did not know, but on the morning of the day when the fall handicap track games were held Scarborough lingered after the Sixth Form Geometry class. Scarborough was president of the Athletic Association.
"We want somebody to act as starter for the races this afternoon, Mr. Upton," said Scarborough. "I wondered if you would help us out."
"I should be delighted," said Irving. "I've not had much experience—"
"Oh, it's easy enough; Mr. Barclay, I guess, can tell you all that has to be done. Thank you very much."
It was quite as if Irving was the one who was conferring the favor; he liked Scarborough for the way in which the boy had made the suggestion. He always had liked him, for Scarborough had never given any trouble; he seemed more mature than most of the boys, more mature even than Louis Collingwood. He was not so popular, because he maintained a certain dignity and reserve; even Westby seemed to stand somewhat in awe of Scarborough. He was, as Irving understood, the best oarsman in the school, captain of the school crew, besides being the crack shot-putter and hammer-thrower; if he and Collingwood had together chosen to throw their influence against a new master, life would indeed have been hard. But Scarborough's attitude had been one of entire indifference; he would stand by and smile sometimes when Westby was engaged in chaffing Irving, and then, as if tired of it, he would turn his back and walk away.
Irving visited Barclay at his house during the noon recess, borrowed his revolver, and received the last simple instructions.
"Make sure always that they're all properly 'set' before you fire. If there's any fouling at the start, you can call them back and penalize the fellow that fouled—a yard to five yards, according to your discretion. But there's not likely to be any fouling; in most of the events the fellows are pretty well separated by their handicaps."
"I'll be careful," said Irving. He inspected the revolver. "It's all loaded?"
"Yes—and there are some blank cartridges. Now, you're all equipped. If any questions come up—I'll be down at the field; I'm to be one of the judges and you can call on me."
At luncheon Irving entered into the talk about the sports to come, without giving any intimation as to the part which he was to play.
"They've given Heath only thirty yards over Lou Collingwood," complained Westby.
"I thought Lou wasn't going to run, because of football; he hasn't been practising," said Carroll.
"I know, but the Pythians have got hold of him, and Dennison's persuaded him it's his duty to run. And I guess he's good enough without practice to win from scratch—giving that handicap!"
"Is Dennison the captain of the Pythian track team?" asked Irving.
"And who's captain of yours—the Corinthians?"
"Morrill's going awfully fast in the quarter now," said Blake. "I timed him yesterday."
"They've handicapped him pretty hard. And he's apt to be just a shade late in starting—just as Dave Pratt is apt to be just a shade previous," said Westby. "It ought to be a close race between those two."
"How much does Pratt get over Morrill?"
"Five yards. And if he steals another yard on the start—"
"Dave wouldn't steal it," exclaimed Blake indignantly. "You Corinthians would accuse a man of anything!"
"Oh, I don't mean that he'd do it intentionally," replied Westby. "But he's so overanxious and eager always—and he's apt to get away without realizing—without the starter realizing.—I wonder who's going to be starter, by the way?"
Nobody knew; Irving did not enlighten them.
Westby bethought him to ask the same question of Scarborough half an hour later, when they were dressing in the athletic house.
"Mr. Upton has consented to serve," said Scarborough gravely.
Westby thumped himself down on a bench, dangling one spiked running shoe by the string.
"The same," said Scarborough.
Westby said nothing more; he stooped and put on his shoe, and then he rose and came over to Scarborough, who was untangling a knot. He passed his hand over Scarborough's head and remarked wonderingly, "Feels perfectly normal—strange—strange!"
Morrill came in from outside, clapping his hands. "Corinthians out for the mile—Heath—Price—Bolton—Edwards—all ready?"
The four named answered by clumping on their spikes to the door.
A moment later came the Pythian call from Dennison; Collingwood and Morse responded. The first event of the day was about to begin. Westby leisurely brushed his hair, which had been disarranged in the process of undressing; he was like a cat in respect of his hair and could not endure to have it rumpled. When it was parted and plastered down to his satisfaction, he slipped a dressing gown on over his running clothes and went out of doors.
The fall track meet was not of the same importance as that in the spring, which was a scratch event. But there were cups for prizes, and there was always much rivalry between the two athletic clubs, the Corinthians and Pythians, as to which could show the most winners. So for that day the football players rested from their practice; many of them in fact were entered in the sports—though, like Collingwood, without any special preparation. The school turned out to look on and cheer; when Westby left the athletic house, he saw the boys lined up on the farther side of the track. The field was reserved for contestants and officials; already many figures in trailing dressing gowns were wandering over it, and off at one side three or four were having a preliminary practice in putting the shot.
But most of those who were privileged to be on the field stood at the farther side, where the start for the mile run was about to take place. Westby saw Randolph and Irving kneeling by the track, measuring off the handicap distances with a tape line; Barclay walked along it, and summoned the different contestants to their places. By the time that Westby had crossed the field, the six runners were at their stations; there was an interval of a hundred and forty yards between Collingwood, at scratch, and young Price of the Fourth Form.
Westby came up and stood near Irving, and fixed him with a whimsical smile.
"Quite a new departure for you, isn't it, Mr. Upton?" he said.
"I thought I'd come down and see if you can run as fast as you can talk, Westby." Irving drew out the revolver, somewhat ostentatiously.
"I hope you won't shoot any one with that; it looks to me as if you ought to be careful how you handle it, sir."
"Thank you for the advice, Westby." Irving turned from the humorist, and raised his voice. "All ready for the mile now! On your marks! Set!"
He held the pistol aloft and fired, and the six runners trotted away. There is nothing very exciting about the start of a mile run, and Irving felt that the intensity with which he had given the commands had been rather absurd. It was annoying to think that Westby had been standing by and finding perhaps in his nervousness a delectable subject for mockery and derision.
Irving walked down the track towards the finish line. He found Barclay there holding the watch.
"You seem to be discharging your arduous duties successfully," said Barclay.
"Oh, so far." Irving looked up the track; the foremost runners were rounding the curve at the end of their first lap. He had a moment's longing to be one of them, stretching his legs like them, trying out his strength and speed on the smooth cinder track against others as eager as himself. He had never done anything of that kind; hardly until now had he ever felt the desire. Why it should come upon him now so poignantly he did not know; but on this warm October afternoon, when the air and the sunshine were as soft as in early September, he wished that he might be a boy again and do the things which as a boy he had never done. To be still young and looking on at the sports and the strife of youth, sports and strife in which he had never borne a part—there was something humiliating and ignoble in the thought. If he could only be for the moment the little Fourth Former there, Price—now flying on in the lead yet casting many fearful backward glances!—Poor child, even Irving's inexperienced eyes told him that he could never keep that pace.
"Go it, kid!" cried three or four older boys good-naturedly, as Price panted by; and he threw back his head and came down more springily upon his toes, trying in response to the cheer to display his best form.
After him came Bolton and Edwards, side by side; and Collingwood, who started at scratch, had moved up a little on Morse and Heath. Heath was considered the strongest runner in the event for the Corinthians, and they urged him on with cries of "Heath! Heath!" as he made the turn. "You've got 'em, Lou!" shouted a group of Pythians the next moment as Collingwood passed. It was early in the race for any great demonstration of excitement.
It was Price whom Irving watched with most sympathy. When he got round on the farther side of the field, his pace had slackened perceptibly; Bolton and Edwards passed him and kept on widening the distance; Morse and Heath passed him at the next turn; and when he came down to the turn in front of the crowd, running heavily, Collingwood overhauled and passed him. It was rather an unfeeling thing for Collingwood to do, right there in front of the crowd, but he was driven to it by force of circumstances; the four other runners were holding on in a way he did not like. The cries of encouragement to him and to Heath were more urgent this time; Bolton and Edwards and Morse had their supporters too.
Westby ran along the field beside Price, and Irving felt a moment's indignation; was Westby taunting the plucky and exhausted small boy? And then Irving saw that he was not, and at the same instant Barclay turned to him and said,—
"Price is Westby's young cousin."
Irving stood near enough to hear Westby say, "Good work, Tom; you set the pace just right; it'll kill Collingwood. Now drop out."
Price shook his head and kept on; Westby trotted beside him, saying anxiously, "There's no use in your wearing yourself all out." But Price continued at his determined, pounding trot.
"He's a plucky kid," said Barclay.
"Rather nice of Westby to take such an interest," said Irving.
Barclay nodded. From that point on it became a close and interesting race, yet every now and then Irving's eyes strayed to the small figure toiling farther and farther to the rear—but always toiling. Westby stood on the edge of the green oval, not far away, and when on the third lap Heath came by in the lead, ran with him a few moments and shouted advice and encouragement in his ear; he had to shout, for all the Corinthians were shouting for Heath now, and the Pythians were shouting just as loudly for Collingwood, who, pocketed by the two other Corinthians, Bolton and Edwards, was running fifteen yards behind. Morse, the only Pythian to support Collingwood, was hopelessly out of it.
Westby left Heath and turned his eyes backward. His cousin came to the turn, white-faced, and mouth hanging open; the crowd clapped the boy. "Quit it, Tom!" cried Westby. "Quit it; there's no sense—" but Price went pounding on. Westby stood looking after him with a worried frown, and then because there was a sudden shout, he turned to look at the others.
There, on the farther side of the field, Collingwood had at last extricated himself from the pocket; he was running abreast of Bolton; Edwards had fallen behind. Heath was spurting; Collingwood passed Bolton, but in doing so did not lessen Heath's lead—a lead of fully fifteen yards. So they came to the last turn, to the long straight-away home-stretch; and the crowd clustered by the finish broke and ran up alongside the track to meet them. Every one was yelling wildly—one name or another—"Corinthian!" "Pythian!" "Heath!" "Collingwood!"
Barclay ran across the track with one end of the tape,—the finish line; Mr. Randolph held the other. "Collingwood! Collingwood!" rose the shout; Irving, standing on tiptoe, saw that Collingwood was gaining, saw that at last he and Heath were running side by side; they held together while the crowd ran with them shouting. Irving pressed closer to the track; Westby in his dressing gown was jumping up and down beside him, waving his arms; Irving had to crane his neck and peer, in order to see beyond those loose flapping sleeves. He saw the light-haired Collingwood and the black-haired Heath, coming down with their heads back and their teeth bared and clenched; they were only fifteen yards away. And then Collingwood leaped ahead; it was as if he had unloosed some latent and unconquerable spring, which hurled him in a final burst of speed across the tape and into half a dozen welcoming arms. Heath stumbled after him, even more in need of such friendly services; but both of them revived very quickly when Mr. Barclay, rushing into the crowd with the watch, cried, "Within eight seconds of the record! Both of you fellows will break it next June."
The other runners came gasping in—and Price was still toiling away in the rear. He had been half a lap behind; he came now into the home-stretch; the crowd began to laugh, and then more kindly, as he drew nearer, to applaud. They clapped and called, "Good work, Price!" Westby met him about fifty yards from the finish and ran with him, saying, "You've got to stick it out now, Tom; you can't drop out now; you're all right, old boy—lots of steam in your boiler—you'll break a record yet." Irving caught some of the speeches. And so Westby was there when Price crossed the line and collapsed in a heap on the track.
It was not for long; they brought him to with water, and Westby knelt by him fanning his face with the skirt of his dressing gown. Barclay picked the boy up. "Oh, I'm all right, sir," said Price, and he insisted on being allowed to walk to the athletic house alone,—which he did rather shakily.
Westby flirted the cinders from the skirt of his dressing gown. "Blamed little fool," he remarked to Carroll and to Allison, who stood by. "Wouldn't his mother give me the dickens, though, for letting him do that!" But Irving, who heard, knew there was a ring of pride in Westby's voice—as if Westby felt that his cousin was a credit to the family. And Irving thought he was.
The sports went on; not many of the runs were as exciting as that with which the afternoon had opened. Irving passed back and forth across the field, helped measure distances for the handicaps, and tried to be useful. His interest had certainly been awakened. Twice in college he had sat on the "bleachers" and viewed indifferently the track contests between Yale and Harvard; he had had a patriotic desire to see his own college win, but he had been indifferent to the performance of the individuals. They had not been individuals to him—merely strange figures performing in an arena. But here, where he knew the boys and walked about among them, and saw the different manifestations of nervousness and excitement, and watched the muscles in their slim legs and arms, he became himself eager and sympathetic. He stood by when Scarborough went on putting the shot after beating all the other competitors—went on putting it in an attempt to break the School record. Unconsciously Irving pressed forward to see him as he prepared for the third and last try; unconsciously he stood with lips parted and eyes shining, fascinated by the huge muscles that rose in Scarborough's brown arm as he poised the weight at his shoulder and heaved it tentatively. And when it was announced that the effort had fallen short by only a few inches, Irving's sigh of disappointment went up with that of the boys.
At intervals the races were run off—the two-twenty, the quarter-mile, the half-mile, the high hurdles, the low hurdles. Irving started them all without any mishap. The last one, the low hurdles for two hundred and twenty yards, was exciting; the runners were all well matched and the handicaps were small. And so, after firing the revolver, Irving started and ran across the field as hard as he could, to be at the finish; he arrived in time, and stood, still holding the revolver in his hand, while Morrill and Flack and Mason raced side by side to the tape. They finished in that order, not more than a yard apart; and Irving rammed his revolver into his pocket and clapped his hands and cheered with the Corinthians.
The Pythians were now two points ahead, and there remained only one event, the hundred yards. First place counted five points and second place two; in these games third place did not count. So if a Corinthian should win the hundred yards, the Corinthians would be victorious in the meet by one point.
There were eight entries in the hundred yards—a large number to run without interfering with one another. But the track was wide, and two of the boys had handicaps of ten yards, one had five yards, and one had three. So they were spread out pretty well at the start, and consequently the danger of interference was minimized.
The runners threw off their dressing gowns and took their places. Drake, Flack, Westby, and Mason lined up at scratch,—Westby having drawn the inside place and being flanked by the two Pythians. There was a moment's pawing of the cinders, and settling down firmly on the spikes.
"Ready, everybody!" cried Irving. He drew the revolver from his pocket and held it aloft. He was as excited as any of the runners; there was the nervous thrill in his voice. "On your marks!" They put their hands to the ground; he ran his eyes along them to see that all were placed. "Set!" There was the instant stiffening of muscles. Then from the revolver came a click. Irving had emptied the six chambers in starting the other races, and had forgotten to reload.
"Just a moment, fellows; ease off!" he called, and they all straightened up and faced towards him questioningly. "Just till I slip in a cartridge," Irving explained with embarrassment.
Westby turned on him a delighted grin, and said,—
"Can I be of any assistance, Mr. Upton?"
"No, thank you," said Irving, and having slipped in one cartridge, he began filling the other chambers of the revolver.
"It takes only one shot to start," observed Westby.
"Yes," said Irving. "If I fire a second, it will be to call you back because of a false start.—Now then,—all ready once more. On your marks!" They crouched. "Set!" He fired.
Somehow in the start Westby's foot slipped, and in trying to get clear he lunged against Flack. Irving saw it and instantly fired a second shot, and shouted, "Come back, come back!" The runners heeded the signal and the shout, but as they tiptoed up the track, they looked irritated.
"Westby, you fouled Flack." Irving spoke with some asperity. "I shall have to set you back a yard."
"It was an accident," Westby replied warmly. "My foot slipped. I couldn't help myself."
"But it was a foul," declared Irving, "and I shall have to set you back a yard."
"It was an accident, I tell you," repeated Westby.
"If it was an accident, you oughtn't to set him back," said Drake, his fellow Corinthian.
"It's in the starter's discretion," spoke up Mason, the Pythian.
"The penalty's a yard," affirmed Irving.
Westby shut his lips tight and looked angrily contemptuous. Irving measured the distance. "There," he said, "you will start there."
Westby took the place behind the others without a word.
"Ready now! On your marks!"
The pistol cracked, and this time they all got away safely, and Irving raced after them over the grass.
From the crowd at the finish came the instant shout of names; out of the short choppy cries two names especially emerged, "Flack! Flack! Flack!" "Westby! Westby! Westby!" Those two were the favorites for the event. Irving saw the scratch men forge ahead, and mingle with the handicap runners; in the confusion of flying white figures he could not see who were leading. But the tumult near the finish grew wild; arms and caps were swung aloft, boys were leaping up and down; the red-haired Dennison ran along the edge of the track, waving his arms; Morrill on the other side did the same thing; the next moment the race had ended in a tumultuous rush of shouting boys.
As to who had won, Irving had not the slightest idea. He was hastening up to find out—hoping that it had been Westby. And then out from the crowd burst Westby and rushed towards him, panting, flushed, hot-eyed, attended by Morrill and half a dozen other Corinthians.
"I hope you're satisfied with your spite-work," said Westby. His voice shook with passion, his eyes blazed; never before had Irving seen him when he had so lost control of himself. "You lost me that race—by half a yard! I hope you're pleased with yourself!"
He surveyed Irving scornfully, breathing hard, then turned his back and strode off to the athletic house.
THE WORM BEGINS TO TURN
After the charge which Westby had flung at him so furiously, Irving looked in amazement to the other boys for an explanation. They were all Corinthians, and he saw gloom and resentment in their faces.
"I think it was pretty rough, Mr. Upton, to penalize him for an unintentional foul," said Morrill. "He'd have beaten Flack if they'd started even."
"But it was a foul," protested Irving. "So I had to penalize him. I made it as small a penalty as I could."
"You didn't have to penalize him unless you wanted to," said Morrill grimly. "Of course you had a perfect right to do as you pleased, only—" He shrugged his shoulders and walked away, followed by the other Corinthians.
Irving stood stricken. So this was the outcome; in seeking to be sympathetic and to be understood, he had only caused himself somehow to be more hated and despised. Bitterness rose within him, bitterness against Westby, against Morrill, against boys in general, against the school. And only an hour ago, from what he had seen and heard, he had felt that he could like Westby, and had been not without some hope that Westby might some time like him.
He saw Barclay standing with Mr. Randolph by the table on which were the prize cups; Barclay was bending over, arranging them, and the boys were gathering on the opposite side of the track, being "policed back" by the half-dozen members of the athletic committee. Evidently the award of prizes was to be made at once, and either Barclay or Randolph was to hand out the cups—perhaps also to make a speech. But Irving could not wait; he must satisfy himself of his doubts and fears, and so he hurried forward and touched Barclay on the shoulder.
"Just a moment, please," he said, as Barclay turned. "Did I do anything wrong?"
"You penalized Westby a yard for fouling, I heard; is that so?"
"Well, you were within your rights. But if it was obviously an unintentional foul, I shouldn't have been so strict."
"I misunderstood what you told me," sighed Irving. "I thought that in case of foul a fellow had to be penalized."
"Oh, no." Barclay was busy; he had to think up something to say, by way of a speech, and he turned and began fussing again with the cups.
Irving walked away. Even his friend Barclay was not sympathetic, did not understand the seriousness of what had happened. He could not stay longer to be the target of hostile, vengeful eyes; he felt that half the boys there were blaming him in their hearts for the defeat of their team—and that the others had no gratitude to him for their victory. Not that it would have made him feel any better if they had; he had only wanted and tried to be fair.
He walked away from the field, crossed the track, and passed round into the avenue that led up to the School. When he had gone as far as the bend where from behind the cluster of trees the School buildings became visible, he heard the pleasant ripple of laughter from the crowd. Some one, probably Barclay, was making a speech; to think of being able to stand before boys and make them laugh like that! It seemed to Irving that he had never before known what envy was.
He spent a mournful hour in his room; then, hearing footsteps on the stairs, he closed his door. The boys were returning from the field; he felt sure there would be remarks about him by Westby and Morrill and other Corinthians up and down the corridor, and he preferred not to hear them. To his surprise there was rather less disturbance than usual; perhaps the boys were too tired after their exciting and active afternoon to indulge in noisy skylarking. So Irving did not have to emerge from his solitude until the supper bell rang. Even then he waited until all the boys had passed his door and were clattering down the stairs. Yet as he descended, Westby's indignant voice floated up to him,—
"Just because I guyed him—he felt he had to get even."
At supper Westby did not look at Irving. One of the boys, Blake, made a comment; he said,—
"That was a mighty good race you ran, Westby; hard luck you were handicapped."
"You can call it hard luck if you want," said Westby.
"How did it happen, anyway?" Blake asked, quite innocently.
"Oh, don't ask me," said Westby.
Three or four of the boys who did know glanced slyly at Irving, and Irving, though he had meant to say nothing, spoke up; there was electricity in the air.
"Westby was unfortunate enough to foul Flack at the start; that was all there was to it," he said. "I saw it and set him back a yard. I was under the impression that in case of foul a penalty had to be imposed—and I made the penalty as light as possible."
He felt that this statement ought to appease any reasonable boy. But Westby was not in a reasonable mood. He paid no attention to Irving; he addressed the table.
"I told Scarborough he might have known things would be botched somehow."
"Why?" asked Blake.
"Oh, you've got to have officials who know their business."
There was an interval of silence at the table; Westby, having fired his shot, sat straight, with cheeks flushed, looking across at Blake.
"Westby feels that he has had provocation and therefore may be rude." Irving spoke at last with calmness. "It's true that I never officiated before at any races. At the same time, I don't believe I did anything which some experienced officials would not have done. There are probably a good many who believe in penalizing a runner for clumsy and stupid interference as well as for deliberate intent to foul."
He had spoken mildly; he did not even emphasize the words "clumsy and stupid." But the retort went home; the Pythians at the table,—of whom Blake was one,—chuckled; and Westby, with a deeper shade of crimson on his face and a sudden compression of his lips, lowered his eyes.
Irving had triumphed, but after the first moment he felt surprisingly little satisfaction in his triumph. He could not help being sorry for Westby; the boy was after all right in feeling that he had been deprived of a victory to which he had been entitled. And as Irving looked at his downcast face, he softened still further; Westby had so often delighted in humiliating him, and he had longed for the opportunity of reprisal. Now it had come, and Westby was humiliated, and the audience were not unsympathetic with Irving for the achievement; yet Irving felt already the sting of remorse. Westby was only a boy, and he was a master; it was not well for a master to mortify a boy in the presence of other boys—a boy whose disappointment was already keen.
The letters were distributed; there was one for Irving from his brother. It contained news that made the world a different place from what it had been an hour ago. Lawrence was playing left end on the Harvard Freshman football eleven; not only that, but in the first game of the season, played against a Boston preparatory school, he had made the only touchdown. He added that that didn't mean much, for he had got the ball on a fluke; still, the tone of the letter was excited and elated.
And it excited and elated Irving. He folded the letter and put it in his pocket; he sat for a moment looking out of the window with dreamy eyes and an unconscious smile. Lawrence was succeeding, was going to succeed, in a way far different from his own—if his own college course could be said in any sense to have terminated in success. Lawrence would have the athletic and the social experience which he had never had; Lawrence would be popular as he had never been; Lawrence would go brilliantly through college as he had never done. Everything now was in Lawrence's reach, and he was a boy who would not be spoiled or led astray by the achievement of temporary glories.
In the vision of his brother's triumphant career, Irving was transported from the troubles and perplexities, from the self-reproaches and the doubts which had been making him unhappy. He wanted now to share his happiness, to take the boys into his confidence—but one can share one's happiness only with one's friends. There was Westby, aggrieved and hostile; there was Carroll, sitting next to him, the queer, quizzical, silent youth, with whom Irving had been entirely unable to establish any relation of intimacy; no, there were no boys at his table with whom he was intimate enough to appeal for their interest and congratulations. And feeling this, he shrank from communicating the news,—though he felt sure that even Westby, who was going to Harvard the next year, might be interested in it; he shrank from anything like boasting. He found an outlet soon; Barclay came to see him that evening.
"I looked for you this afternoon, after the giving out of the prizes," said Barclay. "But I couldn't find you."
"No, I didn't wait for that. Did you make a speech? I heard the boys laughing and cheering as I came away."
"Oh, yes, I got off a few stale jokes and some heavy-footed persiflage. It went well enough.—But I looked for you afterwards because I felt I may have seemed rather short when you came up; the truth is, I was racking my brain at that moment; Scarborough had just sprung the fact on me that I must make the speech."
"Oh, it was all right," said Irving. "I'm sorry to have bothered you at such a time. I was just a little agitated because Westby was rather angry over being penalized in the hundred—"
"So I hear. Well, it was hard luck in a way—but after all you had a perfect right to penalize him; he did foul, and he ought to be sport enough to take the consequences."
"I suppose it wouldn't have been—it wouldn't be possible to run the race over?"
"Certainly not. Besides, Westby has no right to say that if he'd started even with Flack, he'd have beaten him. It's true that he gained half a yard on Flack in the race; but it's also true that Flack knew he had that much leeway. There's no telling how much more Flack might have done if he'd had to. So if Westby says anything to me, I shall tell him just that."
"I feel sorry about the thing anyway. I'm sorry I made a mess of it—as usual."
"Oh, cheer up; it's not going to do you any harm with the fellows. A little momentary flash from Westby and Morrill—"
"No, I wasn't thinking of myself."
"You weren't!" The bluntness of Barclay's exclamation of astonishment caused Irving to blush, and Barclay himself, realizing what he had betrayed to Irving's perception, looked embarrassed. But Irving laughed.
"I don't wonder you're surprised. I guess that's been the worst trouble with me here—thinking about myself. And that was what was troubling me when I went to you this afternoon. But it isn't any longer. I feel bad about Westby. I can't help thinking I did rob him of his race—and then I sat on him at supper into the bargain."
Barclay shouted with laughter. "You sat on Westby—and you're sorry for it! What's happened to you, anyway? Tell me about it."
Irving narrated the circumstances. "And I want to be friendly with him," he concluded. "Don't you think I might explain that it was a blunder on my part—and that I'm sorry I blundered?"
"I wouldn't," said Barclay. "He's beginning to respect you now. Don't do anything to make him think you're a little soft. That's what he wants to think, and he'd construe any such move on your part unfavorably."
"Well, perhaps so." Irving sighed.
"You're stiffening up quite a lot," observed Barclay.
"I was very wobbly when Westby and the other fellows went for me after that race," confessed Irving. "If I stiffened up, I guess it was just the courage of desperation. And I don't think that amounts to much. But I've cheered up for good now."
Somewhat shyly Irving communicated the proud news about his brother.
"Oh, I read about him in to-day's Boston newspaper," exclaimed Barclay.
"What?" asked Irving. "Where was it? I didn't see it."
"You probably don't read all the football news, as I do. But you will after this." Barclay laughed. "Yes, there was quite an account of that game, and Upton was mentioned as being the bright particular star on the Freshman team. It never occurred to me that he was your brother."
"Naturally not. I wish I could get away to see the game with the Yale Freshmen; I've never seen Lawrence play. But I don't suppose I could manage that, could I?"
Barclay looked doubtful. "The rector's pretty strict with the masters as well as with the boys. Especially when a man has charge of a dormitory. I somehow think it wouldn't be wise to try it,—your first term."
"I suppose not. Well, I shall certainly read the football columns from now on."
"I wonder," remarked Barclay, "if we couldn't get the Harvard Freshmen up here to play a practice game with our School eleven—say, the week before the St. John's game? It would be good practice for them as well as for us; three or four years ago the Freshmen played here."
"Oh, I wish we could." Irving's face lighted up. "I'll write to my brother, and perhaps he can arrange it with the captain and manager."
"I'll talk it over with Collingwood first," said Barclay. "And then we'll proceed officially; and you can pull any additional wires that are possible through your brother." He rose to go. "I shouldn't wonder," he added, "if that brother of yours turned out to be a useful asset for you here."
"I should prefer to stand on my own legs," said Irving. "I shan't advertise it round that I have a football brother."
"Oh, it won't be necessary for you to do that; things have a way of leaking out." Barclay laughed as he took his departure.
As it happened, the next day Louis Collingwood, the captain of the School eleven, went to Barclay to consult him about the outlook for the season.
"It seems to me we'll have a good School team," said Collingwood, "but no second eleven capable of giving them hard practice—the kind they'll need to beat St. John's. If we could only arrange one or two games with outside teams, to put us into shape—"
"I was thinking of that," said Barclay. "I wonder if we mightn't get the Harvard Freshmen up here. They have a good eleven, apparently."
"Yes, awfully good, from all that the papers say. Don't you suppose their schedule is filled up?"
"It may be—but perhaps they could give us a date. Suppose you come over to my house this evening and we'll send a letter off to their captain. And I'm sure"—Barclay threw the remark out in the most casual manner—"Mr. Upton will be glad to approach them for us through his brother."
"His brother? Who's that?"
"Why, didn't you know? His brother plays left end on the team—"
"Kiddy Upton's brother on the Harvard Freshmen! No!"
"Mr. Upton's, I meant to say." Louis grinned. "Is he really, Mr. Barclay?"
"I'm rather surprised you didn't know it. But I guess Mr. Upton is the kind that doesn't talk much."
"I should think he'd have let that out."
"Well, he let it out to me. I suspect—though he hasn't told me—that he's helping to put his brother through college. And his success in doing that will naturally depend largely on his success or failure here as a master."
"You mean—keeping his job?"
Barclay nodded. "Yes. Oh, I don't suppose there's any real doubt about that. He's a perfectly competent teacher, isn't he? You know; you have a class with him."
"Ye-es," said Louis, slowly. "The trouble has been, the fellows horse him a good deal—though not quite so much as they did."
"They'll get over that when they know him better," remarked Barclay.
He knew that Louis Collingwood went away feeling much impressed, and he was pretty sure he had done Irving a good turn.
It was in the noon half-hour, while Collingwood was holding this interview with Mr. Barclay, that Westby, reading the Harvard news in his Boston paper, went giggling into Morrill's room.
"There's a fellow named Upton playing on the Freshmen." He showed Morrill the name. "Let's get a crowd and go in to Kiddy; I'll get him rattled."
"How?" asked Morrill.
"Oh, ask him if this fellow's a relation of his, and say I supposed of course he must be—such athletic prowess, and all that sort of thing; with a crowd standing there giggling you know how rattled he'll get."
"All right," said Morrill, who was an earnest admirer of Westby's wit.
So they collected Dennison and Smythe and Allison and Carroll and Scarborough, and marched up the corridor—humorously tramping in step—to Irving's door. There Westby, newspaper in hand, knocked. Irving opened the door.
"Mr. Upton, sir," began Westby, "sorry to disturb you, sir." The boys all began to grin, and Irving saw that he was in for some carefully planned attack. "I was just reading my morning paper, sir, and I wanted to ask you what relation to you the man named Upton is that's playing on the Harvard Freshman eleven, sir."
Irving's eyes twinkled; if ever the enemy had been delivered into his hands!
"What makes you think he's a relation?" he asked, with an assumption of cold dignity.
"Oh, we all feel sure he must be, sir. Of course your well-known and justly famous interest in all athletic sports, sir—not to say your prowess in them, sir—it's natural to suppose that any athlete named Upton would belong to the same family with you, sir."
The boys were all on the broad grin; Westby's manner was so expansively courteous, his compliments were so absurdly urbane, that Irving threw off his air of coldness and adopted a jaunty manner of reply which was even more misleading.
"Oh, well, if you've been so clever as to guess it, Westby," he said, "I don't mind telling you—it's my brother."
Westby bestowed on his confederates—quite indifferent as to whether Irving detected it or not—his slow, facetious wink. He returned then to his victim and in his most gamesome manner said,—
"I supposed of course it was your brother, sir. Or at least I should have supposed so, except that I didn't know you had a brother at Harvard. Wasn't it rather—what shall I say?—peu aimable not to have taken us, your friends, into your confidence? Would you mind telling us, sir, what your brother's first name is?"
"My brother's first name? Lawrence."
"Hm!" said Westby, referring to his newspaper. "I find him set down here as 'T. Upton.' But I suppose that is a misprint, of course."
"I suppose it must be," agreed Irving.
"Newspapers are always making mistakes, aren't they?" said Westby. "Such careless fellows! We'd like awfully to hear more about your brother Lawrence, Mr. Upton."
The broad grin broke into a snicker.
"Why, I don't know just what there is to tell," Irving said awkwardly.
"What does he look like, sir? Does he resemble you very much?—I mean, apart from the family fondness for athletics."
Irving's lips twitched; Westby was enjoying so thoroughly his revenge! And the other boys were all stifling their amusement.
"We are said not to look very much alike," he answered. "He is of a somewhat heavier build."
"He must be somewhat lacking, then, in grace and agility, sir," said Westby; and the boys broke into a shout, and Irving gave way to a faint smile.
At that moment Collingwood came up the stairs.
"Hello, Lou," said Westby, with a welcoming wink. "We're just congratulating Mr. Upton on his brother; did you know that he has a brother playing on the Harvard Freshmen?"
"Yes," said Collingwood. "I've just heard it from Mr. Barclay."
The boys stared at Collingwood, then at Irving, whose eyes were twinkling again and whose smile had widened. Then they looked at Westby; he was gazing at Collingwood unbelievingly,—stupefied.
"What's the matter with you?" asked Collingwood.
And then Irving broke out into a delighted peal of laughter. He could find nothing but slang in which to express himself, and through his laughter he ejaculated,—
"Stung, my young friend! Stung!"
They all gave a whoop; they swung Westby round and rushed him down the corridor to his room, shouting and jeering.
When Irving went down to lunch, Carroll, the quizzical, silent Carroll, welcomed him with a grin. Westby turned a bright pink and looked away. At the next table Allison and Smythe and Scarborough were all looking over at him and smiling; and at the table beyond that Collingwood and Morrill and Dennison were craning their necks and exhibiting their joy. Westby, the humorist, had suddenly become the butt, a position which he had rarely occupied before.
He was quite subdued through that meal. Once in the middle of it, Irving looked at him and caught his eye, and on a sudden impulse leaned back and laughed. Carroll joined in, Westby blushed once more, the Sixth Formers at the next table looked over and began to laugh; the other boys cast wondering glances.
"What's the joke, Mr. Upton?" asked Blake.
"Oh, don't ask me," said Irving. "Ask Westby."
"What is it, Wes?" said Blake, and could not understand why he received such a vicious kick under the table, or why Carroll said in such a jeering way, "Yes, Wes, what is the joke, anyhow?"
When the meal was over, Westby's friends lay in wait for him outside in the hall, crowded round, and began patting him on the back and offering him their jocular sympathy. To have the joke turned on the professional humorist appeared to be extremely popular; and the humorist did not take it very well. "Oh, get out, get out!" he was saying, wrenching himself from the grasp of first one and then another. And Irving came out just as he exclaimed in desperation, "Just the same, I'll bet it's all a fake; I'll bet he hasn't got a brother!"
He flung himself around, trying to escape from Collingwood's clutch, and saw Irving. The smile faded from Irving's face; Westby looked at him sullenly for a moment, then broke away and made a rush up the stairs.
THE HARVARD FRESHMAN
For two or three days the intercourse between Irving and Westby was of the most formal sort. At table they held no communication with each other; in the class-room Irving gave Westby every chance to recite and conscientiously helped him through the recitation as much as he did any one else; in the dormitory they exchanged a cold good-night. Irving did not press Westby for a retraction of the charge which he had overheard the boy make; it seemed to him unworthy to dignify it by taking such notice of it. He knew that none of the boys really believed it and that Westby himself did not believe it, but had been goaded into the declaration in the desperate effort to maintain a false position. Irving wondered if the boy would not have the fairness to make some acknowledgment of the injustice into which his pride had provoked him.
And one day at luncheon, Westby turned to Irving and with an embarrassed smile said,
"Mr. Upton, do you get any news from your brother about the Harvard Freshman eleven?"
Carroll directed at Westby the quizzical look under which Irving had so often suffered. But Westby did not flinch; he waited for Irving's answer, with his embarrassed, appealing smile.
"I had a letter from him this morning," said Irving. "He writes that there is a chance of their coming up here to play the School eleven; I had asked him if that couldn't be arranged."
"Oh, really!" exclaimed Westby, in a tone of honest interest.
"When, Mr. Upton?" "Does he think they'll come?" "Does Lou Collingwood know about it?"
"I guess he knows as much as I do." Irving tried to answer the flood of questions. "He wrote officially to the captain at the same time that I wrote to Lawrence. If they come at all, it will be about a week before the St. John's game."
"When shall we know for sure?" asked Westby.
"It appears to be a question whether the Freshmen will choose to play us or Lakeview School. They want to play whichever team seems the stronger, and they're going to discuss the prospects and decide in a few days."
"I'm sure we're better than Lakeview," declared Blake. "You'll tell your brother we are, won't you, Mr. Upton?"
"I'll tell him that I understand we have a very superior team," said Irving. "I fancy he knows that it's as much as I can do to tell the difference between a quarterback and a goal post."
"You will admit, then, that there was some reason for my not believing you had a football brother, won't you, Mr. Upton?" Westby tried thus to beat a not wholly inglorious retreat.
"Every reason—until it became a matter of doubting my word," said Irving.
Westby crimsoned, and Irving felt that again he had been too severe with him; the boy had been trying to convey an apology, without actually making one; it might have been well to let him off.
But Irving reflected that the account was still far from even and that perhaps this unwonted adversity might be good for Westby. Irving did not realize quite how much teasing had been visited upon Westby in consequence of his disastrous error, or how humiliated the boy had been in his heart. For Westby was proud and vain and sensitive, accustomed to leadership, unused to ridicule; for two days now the shafts of those whom he had been in the habit of chaffing with impunity had been rankling. Because of this sensitive condition, the final rebuke at the luncheon table, before all the boys, cut him more deeply than Irving suspected. Afterwards Westby said to Carroll,—
"Oh, very well. If he couldn't accept my acknowledgment of my mistake, but had to jump on me again—well, it's just spite on his part; that's all. I don't care; I can let him alone after this. That seems to be what he wants."
"A month ago he wouldn't have asked more than that of you," observed Carroll. "And you didn't feel like obliging him then."
The implication that Irving had worsted him galled Westby.
"Oh," he retorted, "the best of jokes will wear out. Kiddy was a perfectly good joke for a while—"
Carroll annoyed him by laughing.
For one who had hitherto been indifferent to all forms of athletics, Irving developed a surprising interest in the game of football. Every afternoon he went to the field and watched the practice of the Pythian and Corinthian elevens. He had once thought the forward pass a detail incapable of engaging one's serious attention, and worthy of rebuke if attempted in dormitory; but after Lawrence wrote that in executing it he was acquiring some proficiency, Irving studied it with a more curious eye.
He wondered if Lawrence was as skillful at it as Collingwood, for instance; Collingwood had now learned to shoot the ball with accuracy twenty or twenty-five yards. Occasionally Irving got hold of a football and tested his own capacity in throwing it; his attempts convinced him that in this matter he had a great deal to learn. Looking back, he could comprehend Louis Collingwood's indignation and amazement at a master who would coldly turn away when a boy was trying to illustrate for him the forward pass.
One afternoon from watching the football practice Irving moved aside for a little while to see the finish of the autumn clay-pigeon shoot of the Gun Club.
There were only six contestants, and there were not many spectators; most of the boys preferred to stay on the football field, where there was more action; the second Pythians and second Corinthians were playing a match. But Irving had heard Westby talking at luncheon about the shoot and strolled over more from curiosity to see how he would acquit himself than for any other reason.
The trap was set in the long grass on the edge of the meadow near the woods; Allison was performing the unexciting task of pulling the string and releasing the skimming disks. When Irving came up, Smythe was finishing; he did not appear to be much of a shot, for he missed three out of the seven "birds" which Irving saw him try for.
Then it was Westby's turn. Westby had got himself up for the occasion, in a Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers and leggings; he was always scrupulous about appearing in costumes that were extravagantly correct. He saw Irving and somewhat ostentatiously turned away.
Irving waited and looked on. Westby stood in an almost negligent attitude, with his gun lowered; the trap was sprung, the clay pigeon flew—and then was shattered in the midst of its flight. It seemed to Irving that Westby hardly brought his gun to his shoulder to take aim. It could not all be luck either; that was evident when Westby demolished ten clay pigeons in rapid succession. It was Carroll's turn now; Westby, having made his perfect score, blew the smoke from the breech and stood by.
Irving went up to him.
"I congratulate you on your shooting, Westby," he said. "It seems quite wonderful to a man who never fired a gun off but a few times in his life—and then it was a revolver, with blank cartridges."
Westby looked at him coolly. "It's funny you've never done anything that most fellows do," he observed. "Were you always afraid of hurting yourself?"
"I was offering my congratulations, Westby," said Irving stiffly, and walked away.
"Why did you go at him like that?" asked Carroll, who had heard the interchange.
"Oh," said Westby, "I wasn't going to have him hanging round swiping to me, soft-soaping me."
"I think he was only trying to be decent," said Carroll.
"I like a man who is decent without trying," Westby retorted.
Yet whether his nerves were a little upset by the episode or his eye thrown off by the wait, Westby did not do so well in the next round. The trap was set to send the birds skimming lower and faster; Westby missed two out of ten, and was tied for first place with Carroll. And in the final shoot to break the tie, Westby lost.
He shook hands with Carroll, but with no excess of good humor. He knew he was really the better shot, and even though Carroll was his closest friend, the defeat rankled.
At supper Blake congratulated Carroll across the table.
"You won, did you, Carroll?" asked Irving.
"Yes, sir—by a close shave."
"I'm sorry I didn't stay to see it." The remark was innocent in intention, but to Westby it seemed edged with malice—as if the master was exulting over his defeat.
Something in Westby's expression told Irving what the boy had inferred; Irving went afterwards to his room in a despondent mood. It didn't matter how hard he tried or what he did; he had not the faculty of winning and holding affection and respect. As it was with boys, so it would be with men. If only he could see how and why he failed, and could learn to correct his mistakes!
He felt of more importance in the School world when a letter from Lawrence was the first announcement that the Freshman eleven would come to play St. Timothy's. He asked Collingwood if he had had any word, and when Collingwood said no, he told him his brother's message.
"I don't believe there can be any mistake," said Irving. "He writes that it was decided only the night before. You'll probably receive the official communication in a day or two."
Collingwood was tremendously elated. "I knew we were better than Lakeview—but I was afraid they wouldn't realize it," he said. "Now we'll have to get ready and beat them. Anyway, if we can't do that, it will be the best kind of preparation for the St. John's game."
The official communication arrived; Collingwood rushed with it to the bulletin board in the Study building and posted it for all eyes to see. The same day he posted the School eleven, as it would line up in that game.
Westby was to be first substitute for Dennison at right half back. Westby had been playing a streaky game on the First Corinthians; on some days he was as brilliant a runner and tackler as there was in the School, and on other days he would lose interest and miss everything.
If he was disappointed at the preference given to Dennison, he did not show it; in fact, that he appeared on the list as substitute seemed to fill him with elation. He had never taken football quite so seriously as some of the others—as Collingwood and Dennison, for example; and therefore only a moderate success in it was for him a matter of gratification.
The training table was organized at once, but Westby was not admitted to it. There was not room for the substitutes; they were expected to do their own training. Westby was notoriously lax in that matter and had to be nagged constantly by Collingwood, whom he found some pleasure in teasing.
He would secure some forbidden article of food and ostentatiously appear to be eating it with the greatest enjoyment until he caught Collingwood's eye; a large circular doughnut or a chocolate eclair delicately poised between his thumb and finger were his favorite instruments for torturing his captain's peace of mind. He would contrive to be seen just as he was on the point of taking the first bite; then he would reluctantly lay the tidbit down.
"It's a hard life, this being a near athlete," he grumbled. "Sitting at a table with a lot of uncongenial pups like you fellows.—Mr. Upton, Blake's kicking me; make him quit, sir.—Not allowed to eat half the things the rest of you do, and not allowed either to get any of the training-table grub. Well, I never did think of self, so I can endure it better than most."
The others jeered. But Westby, however he might complain, was faithful at practice and accepted good-naturedly his position upon the second eleven, and the hard battering to which every one on the second eleven was subjected.
The day when he got round Morrill, the first eleven's left end, and scored a touchdown—the only one which in that week of practice the second eleven scored—brought him so much applause that he began really to think there might be a chance of his ousting Dennison from the regular position. When that notion entered his head he ceased to be facetious about the training; he became suddenly as serious as Collingwood himself. But in spite of that, he remained Dennison's substitute.
The Saturday set for the game with the Harvard Freshmen was an Indian Summer day. In the early morning mist wreathed the low meadows and the edges of the pond; it seemed later to dissipate itself through all the windless air in haze. The distant hills were blue and faint, the elms in the soft sunlight that filtered down had a more golden glow.
"Great day," was the salutation that one heard everywhere; "great day for the game."
Now and then in his morning classes Irving's thoughts would wander, there would be a gentle rush of excitement in his veins. He would turn his mind firmly back to his work; he did not do any less well that day because his heart was singing happily.
In three hours more—in two—in one—he was going to see Lawrence again; he wondered if he would find his brother much changed. Only two months had passed since they had parted; yet in that time how remote Lawrence had grown in Irving's eyes from the Lawrence of the Ohio farm!
The bell announcing the noon recess rang; Irving dismissed his last class. He hurried down the stairs almost as madly as the Fourth Formers themselves; the train on which the Harvard Freshmen were coming was due ten minutes before; already Lawrence and the others must have started on the two-mile drive out to the School.
In front of the Study building most of the older boys and many of the younger were congregated, awaiting the arrival of the visitors. Irving walked about among the groups impatiently, now and then looking at his watch. He passed Westby and Collingwood, who were standing together by the gate.
"Pretty nearly time for them, Mr. Upton," said Westby. "Feeling nervous, sir?"
There was more good nature in his smile than he had displayed towards Irving since the day of the track games.
"A little," Irving admitted, and at that moment some one shouted, "Here they come!"
Over the crest of the hill galloped four horses, drawing a long red barge crowded with boys. Collingwood climbed up on the gate-post.
"Now, fellows," he said, "when they get here, give three times three for the Freshmen."
The boys waited in silence. Irving strained his eyes, trying to distinguish the figures huddled together in the barge. The horses came down at a run, with a rattle of hoofs and harness; the driver flourished his whip over them spectacularly.
"Now then, fellows!" cried Collingwood. "Three times three for the Freshmen!"
And amidst the waving of caps as the cheers were given, Irving could see no one in the barge. Then when that cheer had subsided, one of the visitors stood up and took off his hat and shouted,—
"Three times three for St. Timothy's! One—two—three!" The fellows in the barge sent up a vigorous, snappy cheer, and then overflowed at back and sides. In the confusion and the crowd, Irving was still straining his short-sighted eyes in a vain attempt to discover Lawrence.
Suddenly he heard a shout,—"Hello, Irv!"—and there, a little way off, was Lawrence, laughing at him and struggling towards him through the throng. The boys understood and drew apart and let the two brothers meet.
"It's great to see you again, Irv," said Lawrence, when he could reach and grasp his brother's hand; he looked at Irving with the same old loving humor in his eyes.
"It's great to see you again, Lawrence," said Irving. He could not help being a little conscious and constrained, with so many eyes upon him.
He tucked one hand in his brother's arm and with the other reached for Lawrence's bag. Lawrence laughed, and with hardly an effort detached it from Irving's grasp.
"You carry that, you little fellow! I guess not," he said.
Some of the boys heard and smiled, and Lawrence threw back at them a humorous smile; Irving blushed. He led Lawrence away, towards the Upper School. The other Freshmen were being conducted in the same direction by Collingwood and his team.
"Well," said Westby to Carroll in an outpouring of slang from the heart, "Kiddy's brother is certainly a peach of a good looker. I hope he'll bring him to lunch."
WESTBY IN THE GAME
It was with satisfaction that Westby and Carroll saw Lawrence entering the dining-room with Irving. They had observed the long table spread in the common room of the Upper School, where the visiting team were to be entertained at luncheon, and had supposed therefore that they would have no chance of satisfying their curiosity about the master's brother.
When Irving introduced Lawrence to them, Westby said,—
"We hoped we were going to see you here, but we were afraid you might have to eat outside with your team."
"Oh, I got special permission from the captain for this occasion," said Lawrence. "I'm afraid I'm depriving somebody of his seat," he added to Irving.
"It's Caldwell—I arranged with him about it. He's gone to Mr. Randolph's table."
"Besides, he's only a Fourth Former," said Westby.
Lawrence laughed. "You're Sixth, I suppose?" Westby nodded. "Going to Harvard next year?"
"Good for you. I'll tell you one thing; you couldn't have a better man to get you in than this brother of mine—if I do say it. He tutored me for Harvard—and I guess you've never had a worse blockhead, have you, Irv?"
"Oh, you were all right in some things, Lawrence."
"I'd like to know what. How I used to try your patience, though!" Lawrence chuckled, then turned and addressed the boys, especially Westby and Carroll, as they were the oldest. "Did any of you ever see him mad?"
"Oh, surely never that," said Westby urbanely. "Irritated perhaps, but not mad—never lacking in self-control."
Westby, thinking himself safe, ventured upon his humorous wink to Blake and the others who were grinning; Lawrence intercepted it and at once fixed Westby with a penetrating gaze.
Westby colored and looked down; Lawrence held his eyes on him until Westby looked up and then, in even greater embarrassment under this prolonged scrutiny, down again. Then Lawrence turned to his brother.