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"What's that awful noise?" asked Clint startledly, looking up from his book.
It was the evening of the second day of school and Clint and Amy Byrd were preparing lessons at opposite sides of the green-topped table in Number 14 Torrence.
"That," replied Amy, leaning back until his chair protested and viewing his room-mate under the shade of the drop-light, "is music."
"Music!" Clint listened incredulously. From the next room, by way of opened windows and transoms, came the most lugubrious wails he thought he had ever listened to. "It--it's a fiddle, isn't it?" he demanded.
Amy nodded. "More respectfully, a violin. More correctly a viol-din. (The joke is not new.) What you are listening to with such evident delight are the sweet strains of Penny Durkin's violin." Amy looked at the alarm clock which decorated a corner of his chiffonier. "Penny is twelve minutes ahead of time. He's not supposed to play during study-hour, you see, and unless I'm much mistaken he will be so informed before the night is much--"
"Hey, Penny! Cut it out, old top!"
From somewhere down the corridor the anguished wail floated, followed an instant later by sounds counterfeiting the howling of an unhappy dog. Threats and pleas mingled.
"Penny! For the love of Mike!"
"Set your watch back, Penny!"
"Shut up, you idiot! Study's not over!"
"Call an officer, please!"
But Pennington Durkin was making too much noise on his instrument to hear the remonstrances at first, and it was not until some impatient neighbour sallied forth and pounded frantically at the portal of Number 13 that the wailing ceased. Then,
"What is it?" asked Durkin mildly.
"It's only ten minutes to nine, Penny. Your clock's fast again. Shut up or we'll kill you!"
"Oh!" said Penny surprisedly. "Are you sure? I set my watch--"
"Oh, forget it! You say that every night," was the wearied response. "How the dickens do you think anyone's going to study with that noise going on?"
"I'm very sorry, really," responded Penny, "If I'd known--"
"You never do know, Penny!" The youth outside strode back to his room and slammed the door and quiet prevailed once more. Amy smiled.
"Poor Penny," he said. "He suffers much in the cause of Art. I refuse to study any more. Close up shop, Clint, and let's talk. Now that you've been with us a whole day, what do you think of us? Do you approve of this institution of learning, old man?"
"I think I'm going to like it," replied Clint soberly.
"I do hope so," murmured Amy anxiously. "Still, any little changes you'd like made--"
"Well, you asked me, didn't you?" laughed Clint. "Besides, how can I help but like it when I am honoured by being roomed with you?"
"Sarcasm!" hissed Amy. "Time's up!" He slammed his book shut, tossed it on a pile at his elbow, yawned and jumped from his chair. "Let's go visiting. What do you say? Come along and I'll interdoodle you to some of our prominent criminals. Find your cap and follow me."
"I wish," said Amy, as they clattered down the stairs in the wake of several other boys who had lingered no longer than they after nine o'clock had struck, "I wish you had made the Fifth Form, Clint."
"So do I," was the reply. "I could have if they'd stretched a point."
"Um; yes," mused the other. "Stretched a point. Now that's something I never could make out, Clint."
"Why, how you can stretch a point. The dictionary describes a point as 'that which has position but no magnitude.' Seems to me it must be very difficult to get hold of a thing with no magnitude, and, of course, you'd have to get hold of it to stretch it, wouldn't you? Now, if you said stretch a line or stretch a circle--"
"That's what you'll need if you don't shut up," laughed Clint.
"No, a stretcher!"
"What a horrible pun," mourned Amy. "Say, suppose we drop in on Jack Innes?"
"Suppose we do," replied Clint cheerfully. "Who is he?"
"Football captain, you ignoramus. Maybe if you don't act fresh and he takes a liking to you he will resign and let you be captain."
"Won't it look--well, sort of funny?" asked Clint doubtfully as they passed along the Bow.
"What? You being captain?"
"No, our going--I mean my going to see him, Won't he think I'm trying to--to swipe?"
"Poppycock! Jack's a particular friend of mine. You don't have to tell him you want a place on the team, do you? Besides, there'll likely be half a dozen others there. Here we are; one flight."
They turned in the first entrance of Hensey and climbed the stairs. Innes's room, like Clint's, faced the stair-well, being also Number 14, and from behind the closed door came a babel of voices.
"Full house tonight," observed Amy, knocking thunderously. But the knocking wasn't heard inside and, after a moment, Amy turned the knob and walked in, followed by Clint. Nearly a dozen boys were crowded in the room and each of the two small beds sagged dangerously under the weight it held.
"We knocked," said Amy, "but you hoodlums are making so much noise that--"
"Hi, Amy! How's the boy?" called a youth whose position facing the door allowed him to discover the newcomers. Heads turned and other greetings followed. It was evident to Clint that his room-mate was a popular chap, for everyone seemed thoroughly glad to see him.
"Come here, Amy," called a big fellow who was sprawled in a Morris chair. Amy good-naturedly obeyed the summons and the big fellow pulled up a leg of the other boy's trousers. "They're grey, fellows," he announced sorrowfully. "Someone's gone and died, and Amy's in mourning!"
"Grey!" exclaimed another. "Never. Amy, tell me it isn't true!"
"Shut up! I want to interdoodle my most bosom friend, Mr. Clinton Thayer, of Vay-gin-yah, sah! Clint, take off your hat."
The merriment ceased and the occupants of the room got to their feet as best they might and those within reach shook hands.
"That large lump over there," indicated Amy, "is Innes. He's one of your hosts. The other one is Mr. Still; in the corner of the bed; the intelligent-looking youth. The others don't matter."
"Glad to know you, Thayer," said Jack Innes in a deep, jovial voice. "Hope you can find a place to sit down. I guess that bed near you will hold one more without giving way."
Clint somewhat embarrassedly crowded on to a corner of the bed and Amy perched himself on an arm of the Morris chair. A smallish, clever-looking fellow across the room said: "You're a punk introducer, Amy. Thayer, my name's Marvin, and this chap is Hall and the next one is Edwards, and Still you know, and then comes Ruddie, and Black--"
"Red and Black," interpolated Amy.
"And next to Innes is Landers--"
"Oh, forget it, Marvin," advised Still. "Thayer won't remember. Names don't matter, anyway."
"Some names," retorted Marvin, "have little significance, yours amongst them. I did the best I could for you, Thayer. Remember that. What's the good word, Amy?"
"I have no news to relate," was the grave response, "save that Jordan obtruded his shining cranium as we came in and requested me to inform you fellows that unless there was less noise up here--"
Jeers greeted that fiction. "I love your phrases, Amy," said Marvin. "'Shining cranium' is great"
"Oh, Amy is one fine little phraser," said Innes. "Remember his theme last year, fellows? How did it go, Amy? Let me see. Oh! 'The westerning sun sank slowly into the purple void of twilight, a burnished copper disk beyond the earth's horizon!'"
"I never!" cried Amy indignantly.
"He loves to call a football an 'illusive spheroid,'" chuckled another chap.
"So it is," asserted Amy vehemently. "I know, because I tried to play with one once!"
"I'll bet a great little football player was lost when you forsook the gridiron for the--the field of scholarly endeavour," said Tom Hall.
"He's caught it, too!" groaned the youth beside him, Steve Edwards. "Guess I'll take him home."
"You're not talking that way yet, are you, Thayer?" asked Jack Innes solicitously.
"I don't think so," replied Clint with a smile.
"You will sooner or later, though. The fellow who roomed with Amy last year got so he couldn't make himself understood in this country and had to go to Japan."
"China," corrected Amy, "China, the Land of the Chink and the chop-stick."
"There he goes!" moaned Still.
"What I haven't heard explained yet," said Steve Edwards, "is what's happened to Amy's glad socks. Why the sobriety, Amy?"
"Wouldst hear the sweet, sad story?"
"Then give me your kind attention and I willst a tale unfold. You see, it's like this. Clint there can tell you that just the other day I was a thing of beauty. My slender ankles were sheer and silken delights. But--and here's the weepy place, fellows--when I disrobed I discovered that the warmth of the weather had affected the dye in those gladsome garments and my little footies were like unto the edible purple beet of commerce. And I paid eighty-five cents a pair for those socks, too. I--I'm having them washed."
When the laughter had ceased, Ruddie, who seemed a serious-minded youth, began a story of an uncle of his who had contracted blood-poisoning from the dye in his stockings. What ultimately happened to the uncle Clint never discovered, for the others very rudely broke in on Ruddie's reminiscences and the conversation became general and varied. The boy next to Clint, whose name he learned later was Freer, politely inquired as to how Clint liked Brimfield and whether he played football. To the latter question Clint confided that he did, although probably not well enough to stand much of a chance here.
"Oh, you can't tell," replied Freer encouragingly. "Come out for practice tomorrow and see. We're got a coach here that can do wonders with beginners."
"Of course I mean to try," said Clint. "I reckon you wear togs, don't you, when you report?"
"Yes, come dressed to play. You'll get a workout for a week or so, anyway. Three-thirty is the time. You won't feel lonesome. We've got more fellows here this year than we ever had and I guess there'll be a gang of new candidates. Got a lot of last year's 'varsity players left, too, and we ought to be able to turn out a pretty fair team."
"Where does Captain Innes play?" Clint asked
"Centre, and he's a peach. Marvin, over there, is first-string quarter this year. Edwards will be one of our ends and Hall will have right guard cinched, I think."
"And where do you play?" Clint inquired.
"Half, when I play," laughed the other. "I'm going to make a good fight for it this year. How'd you know I did play, though?"
"I--just thought so," said Clint. "You sort of look it, you know."
That seemed to please Freer. "Well, I've been at it three years," he said, "and this is my last chance."
"I hope you make it."
"Thanks. Same to you! Well, I must get along."
The gathering was breaking up. Most of the fellows were careful to bid Clint good night as they went and several told him to get Amy to bring him around to see them. Captain Innes crowded his way through the confusion of visitors and furniture and sought Clint where he stood aside in the corner.
"I believe you play football, Thayer?" he said inquiringly.
"Well, you're modest, anyway," the big centre laughed. "Don't overdo it, though; it doesn't pay. What's your position?"
"I played tackle at home."
"Well, you come out tomorrow and show your goods, Thayer. We need all the talent we can get. Hope to see you do splendidly. Good night. Awfully glad to have met you. Good night, Amy. Hope those socks will come out all right."
"They'll never be the same," replied Amy sadly. "Their pristine splendour--"
"Get out of here, Amy! You remind me unpleasantly of tomorrow's English and the fact that I haven't looked at it yet!" And Freer, who was a rather husky youth, pushed Amy into the corridor without ceremony.
On the way back to Torrence Clint asked curiously: "How do you suppose Innes knew I played, Amy?"
"Oh, he's a discerning brute," responded the other carelessly.
"But he said he believed I did. That sounds as if someone had told him. Did you?"
"Well," replied the other hesitantly, "now that you mention it, summon it, as it were, to my attention, or, should I say, force it on my notice; or, perhaps, arouse my slumbering memory--"
"Meaning you did?"
"I might have."
"'S afternoon. We met by chance. Casually I mentioned the fact that you were probably one of the niftiest little linemen that ever broke through the--er--stubborn defence of a desperate enemy--"
"And that, if properly encouraged, you would very likely be willing to lend your helpful assistance to the Dear Old Team. And he said: 'Bless you, Amy, for them glad tidings. All is not lost, With Clint Thayer to help us, victory may once more perch upon our pennant!' Or maybe it was 'banner.'"
"Honest, Amy," pleaded Clint, "what did you say?"
"Only that you were rooming with me and that I'd heard you say you, played and that I meant to bring you around to see him this evening."
"And he said?"
"He said 'Of course, bring him along.'"
"Oh," murmured Clint
"Just the remark I was about to make," declared Amy.
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