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The backs and substitute backs, together with Story, the quarter, Captain Dutton, and one or two assistant coaches, including Stephen Remsen, were assembled in Bancroft 6. The head coach was also present, and with a long pointer in one hand and a piece of chalk in the other was going through a sequence for the benefit of the backs, who had been called a half hour ahead of the rest of the Eleven. The time was a half hour after dinner.
On the blackboard strange squares and lines and circles confronted the men in the seats. The head coach placed the tip of the pointer on a diagram marked "No. 2. Criss-Cross."
"This is the second of the sequence, and is an ordinary criss-cross from left half-back to right half-back. If you don't understand it readily, say so. I want you to ask all the questions you can think of. The halves take positions, as in the preceding play, back of the line behind the tackle-guard holes. The ball goes to left half, who runs just back of quarter. Right half starts a moment after the ball is put in play, also going back of quarter and outside of left half and receiving the ball at a hand pass from the latter, and continuing on through the hole between left end and tackle. Right end starts simultaneously with left half, taking the course indicated, in front of quarter and close to the line, and interfering through the line for the runner."
"Left end blocks opposing end outward. Quarter clears the hole out for the runner. Full-back does not start until the pass from quarter to left half is made. He must then time himself so as to protect the second pass. In case of a fumble the ball is his to do the best he can with through the end-tackle hole. If the pass is safe he follows left half through, blocking opposing left end long enough to keep him out of the play.
"You will go through this play to-morrow and you will get your slips to-morrow evening here. Now is there anything not clear to you?"
Apparently there was a great deal, for the questions came fast and furious, the coaches all taking a hand in the discussion, and the diagram being explained all over again very patiently by the head. Then another diagram was tackled.
"The third of this sequence is from an ordinary formation," began the head coach. "It is intended to give the idea of a kick, or, failing that, of a run around left end. It will very probably be used as a separate play in the last few minutes of a half, especially where the line-up is near the side line, right being the short side of the field. You will be given the signal calling this as a separate play to-morrow evening.
"Full-back stands as for a kick, and when the signal is given moves in a step or two toward quarter as unnoticeably as possible; position 2 in the diagram. He must be careful to come to a full stop before the ball is snapped back, and should time himself so that he will not have to stay there more than a second. The instant the ball is snapped full-back runs forward to the position indicated here by 3, and receives the ball on a short pass from quarter. Left half starts at the same instant, and receives the ball from full as he passes just behind him, continuing on and around the line outside of right end. It is right half's play to make the diversion by starting with the ball and going through the line between left tackle and guard; he is expected to get through and into the play on the other side. Left end starts when the ball is snapped, and passing across back of the forwards clears out the hole for the runner. Quarter interferes, assisted by full-back, and should at all costs down opposing half. Right end helps right tackle throw in opposing end. Much of the success of this play depends on the second pass, from full-back to left half, and it must be practiced until there is no possibility of failure. Questions, fellows."
After the discussion of the last play a half hour's talk on interference was given to the rest of the Eleven and substitutes, who had arrived meanwhile. Remsen and Joel left Bancroft together and crossed the yard toward the latter's room. The sky was bright with myriads of stars and the buildings seemed magnified by the wan radiance to giant castles. Under the shadow of University Remsen paused to light his pipe, and, without considering, the two found themselves a moment later seated on the steps.
From the avenue the clang-clang of car gongs sounded sharp and clear, and red and white and purple lights flitted like strange will-o'-wisps through the half light, and disappeared into the darkness beyond the common. The lights in the stores beamed dimly. A green shade in Pray's threw a sickly shaft athwart the pavement. But even as they looked a tall figure, weariness emanating from every movement, stepped between window and light, book in hand, and drew close the blinds.
"Poor devil!" sighed Remsen. "Three hours more of work, I dare say, before he stumbles, half blind, into bed. And all for what, Joel? That or--that?" He pointed with his pipe-stem to where Jupiter shone with steady radiance high in the blue-black depths; then indicated a faint yellow glow that flared for an instant in the darkness across the yard where a passer had paused to light his pipe.
"We can't all be Jupiters, Remsen," answered Joel calmly. "Some of us have to be little sticks of wood with brimstone tips. But they're very useful little things, matches. And, after all, does it matter as long as we do what we have to do as well as we can? Old Jupiter up there is a very fine chap undoubtedly, and if he shirked a minute or two something unpleasant would probably occur; but he isn't performing his task any better than the little match performed his. 'Scratch--pouf' and the match's work's done. But it has lighted a fire. Can you do better, Mr. Jupiter?"
Remsen made no reply for a moment, but Joel knew that he was smiling there beside him. A little throng of students passed by, humming softly a song in time with their echoing footsteps, and glanced curiously at the forms on the steps. Then Remsen struck a match on the stone.
"'Scratch--pouf!'" he said musingly, relighting his pipe. In the act of tossing the charred splinter away he stopped; then he laid it beside him on the step. "Good little match," he muttered. Joel laughed softly.
"March," asked Remsen presently, "have you changed your mind yet about studying law?"
"No; but sometimes I get discouraged when I think of what a time it will take to arrive anywhere. And sometimes, too, I begin to think that a fellow who can't talk more readily than I ought to go into the hardware business or raise chickens for a living instead of trying to make a lawyer out of himself."
"It isn't altogether talk, March," answered Remsen, "that makes a good lawyer. Brains count some. If you get where you can conduct a case to a successful result you will never miss the 'gift o' the gab.' Talking's the little end of the horn in my profession, despite tradition.
"I asked for a reason, March," he went on. "What do you say to our forming a partnership? When you get through the Law School you come to me, if you wish, and tell me that you are ready to enter my office, and I'll answer 'I'm very glad to have you, Mr. March.' Of course we could arrange for a regular partnership a year or so later. Meanwhile the usual arrangement would be made. It may be that you know of some very much better office which you would prefer to go to. If you do, all right. If you don't, come to me. What do you say?"
"But--but what good would I do you?" Joel asked, puzzled at the offer. "I'd like it very much, of course, but I can't see--"
"I'll tell you, March. I have a good deal of faith in your future, my boy. You have a great deal of a most valuable thing called application, which I have not, worse luck. You are also sharp-witted and level-headed to a remarkable degree. And some day, twenty or thirty years from now, you'll likely be hard-headed, but I'll risk that. By the time you're out of college I shall be wanting a younger man to take hold with me. There will be plenty of them, but I shall want a good one. And that is why I make this offer. It is entirely selfish, and you need not go searching for any philanthropy in it. I'm only looking a bit ahead and buttering my toast while it's hot, March. What do you say? Or, no, you needn't say anything to-night. Think it over for a while, and let me know later."
"But I don't want to think it over," answered Joel eagerly. "I'm ready to sign such a partnership agreement now. If you really believe that I would--could be of use to you, I'd like it mightily. And I know all about your 'selfishness,' and I'm very grateful to you for--for buttering your toast."
Later, when they arose and went on, Remsen consented to accompany Joel to his room, bribed thereto with a promise of hot chocolate. They found Outfield diligently poring over a Greek history. But he immediately discarded it in favor of a new book on the Royal Game which lay in his lap hidden under a note book.
"You see," he explained, "old Pratt has taken a shine to me, and I expected him to call this evening. And I thought at first that you were he--or him--which is it? And of course I didn't want to disappoint the old gentleman; he has such a fine opinion of me, you know."
While Outfield boiled the water and laid bare the contents of the larder, Joel told him of Remsen's offer. A box of biscuits went down with a crash, and Outfield turned indignantly.
"That's all very fine," he exclaimed. "But where do I come in? How about Mr. West? Where does he get his show in this arrangement? You promised that if I studied law, too, Joel, you'd go into partnership with me. Now, didn't you?"
"But it was all in fun," protested Joel, distressedly. "I didn't suppose you meant it, you know."
"Meant it!" answered Outfield indignantly. "Of course I meant it. Don't you expect I appreciate level-headedness and sharp-wittedness and applicationousness just as much as Remsen? Why, I had it all fixed. We were to have an office fitted with cherry railings and revolving bookcases near--near--"
"A good links?" suggested Remsen smilingly.
"Well, yes," admitted Outfield, "that wouldn't be a half bad idea. But now you two have gone and spoiled it all."
"Well, I tell you, West," suggested Remsen, "you come in with us and supply the picturesque element of the business. You might look after the golf cases, you know; injuries to bald-headed gentlemen by gutties; trespassing by players; forfeiting of leases, and so forth. What do you say?"
"All right," answered Outfield cheerfully. "But it must be understood that the afternoons belong to the links and not to the law."
So Stephen Remsen and Joel March sealed their agreement by shaking hands, and Outfield grinned approval.
One afternoon a few days later Outfield pranced into the room just as dusk was falling brandishing aloft a silver-plated mug, and uttering a series of loud cheers for "Me." Joel, who had returned but a moment before from a hard afternoon's practice, and was now studying in the window seat by the waning light, looked languidly curious.
"A trophy, Joel, a trophy from the links!" cried West. "Won by the great Me by two holes from Jenkins, Jenkins the Previously Great, Jenkins the Defeated and Devastated!" He tossed the mug into Joel's lap.
"I'm very glad, Out," said the latter. "Won't it help you with the team?"
"It will, my discerning friend. It will send me to New York next month to represent Harwell. And Lapham says I must go to Lakewood for the open tournament. Oh, little Outie is some pumpkins, my lad! It was quite the most wonderful young match to-day. Jenkins led all the way to the fifteenth hole. Then he foozled like a schoolboy, and I holed out in one and went on to the Cheese Box in two."
"I'm awfully glad," repeated Joel, smiling up into the flushed and triumphant face of his chum. "If you go to New York it will be after the big game, and, if you like, I'll go with you and shout." Outfield West executed a war-dance and whooped ecstatically.
"Will you, Joel? Honest Injun? Cross your heart and hope to die? Then shake hands, my lad; it's a bargain! Now, where's my chemistry?"
The days flew by and the date of the Yates game rapidly approached. The practice was secret every afternoon, and the coaches lost weight eluding the newspaper reporters. Prince disappointed Joel by returning to the Varsity with his ankle apparently as well as ever, although he was generally "played easy," and Joel often took his place in the second half of the practice games.
And at last the Thursday preceding the big game arrived, and the team and substitutes, together with the trainer and the manager and the head coach and two canine mascots, assembled in the early morning in the square and were hustled into coaches and driven into town to their train. And half the college heroically arose phenomenally early and stood in the first snow storm of the year and cheered and cheered for the team individually and collectively, for the head coach and the trainer, for the rubbers and the mascots, and, between times, for the college.
The players went to a little country town a few miles distant from the seat of Yates University, and spent the afternoon in practicing signals on the hotel grounds. The next day, Friday, was a day of rest, save for running through a few formations and trick plays after lunch and taking a long walk at dusk. The Yates Glee Club journeyed over in the evening and gave an impromptu entertainment in the parlor, a courtesy well appreciated by the Harwell team, whose nerves were now beginning to make themselves felt. And the next morning the journey was continued and the college town was reached at half past eleven.
The men were welcomed at the station by a crowd of Harwell fellows who had already arrived, and the Harwell band did its best until the team was driven off to the hotel. There for the first time the men were allowed to see the line-up for the game. It was a long list, containing the names, ages, heights, and weights of thirty-six players and substitutes, and was immediately the center of interest to all.
"Thunder!" growled Joel ruefully, as he finished reading the list over Blair's shoulder, "it's a thumpin' long ways down to me!"
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