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Left Guard Gilbert

Left Guard Gilbert

Author:Ralph Henry Barbour


"HOLD up!" Coach Robey, coatless, vestless, hatless, his old flannel trousers held up as by a miracle with the aid of a leather strap scarcely deserving the name of belt, pushed his way through the first squad players....
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  "HOLD up!"

  Coach Robey, coatless, vestless, hatless, his old flannel trousers heldup as by a miracle with the aid of a leather strap scarcely deservingthe name of belt, pushed his way through the first squad players. TheBrimfield Head Coach was a wiry, medium-sized man of about thirty, witha deeply-tanned face from which sharp blue eyes looked out under whitishlashes that were a shade lighter than his eyebrows and two shadeslighter than his sandy hair. As the afternoon was excessively hot, evenfor the twenty-first day of September and in proximity to Long IslandSound, Mr. George Robey's countenance was bathed in perspiration and thefaded blue silk shirt was plastered to his body.

  "That was left half through guard-tackle, wasn't it? Then don't put theball in your arm, St. Clair. You ought to know better than that. Onplays through the line hold it against your stomach with both hands. Howlong do you think you'd keep that ball in your elbow after you hit theline? Someone would knock it out in about one second! Now try it againand think what you're doing. All right, Carmine. Same play."

  The panting and perspiring backs crouched once more, Carmine shrillycalled his signals, Thayer and Gafferty plunged against an imaginary foeas Thursby shot the ball back and St. Clair, hugging the pigskinecstatically with wide-spread fingers, trotted through the hole,stopped, set the ball on the grass and wiped his streaming face with thetorn sleeve of a maroon jersey.

  "All right," said the coach. "That will do for today. In on the trot,everyone!"

  The first squad, exhaling a long, deep sigh of relief as one man, settheir faces toward the gymnasium and trotted slowly off, theircanvas-clad legs _swish-swashing_ as they met. Coach Robey walkedfurther down the sun-baked field to where the nearer of the remainingfour squads was at work.

  "Oh, put some pep into it, McPhee!" called the coach as he approached."You all look as if you were asleep! Come on now! Wake up! Jones, get upthere. You're away out of position. That's better. Now then, Quarter!Hold up! What's your down?"

  "Third, sir, and four to go."

  "All right. Show me what you're going to do with it. Head up, Martin!Look where you're going."

  "36--27--43--86!" grunted the quarter-back. "36----"

  "Signal!" cried Gordon, at right half.

  McPhee straightened, cast a withering look at the half-back, wiped theperspiration from the end of his sun-burnt nose and repeated:


  Gordon shifted his feet, and--

  "Hold up!" barked the coach. "Gordon, don't give the play away. Shiftingyour feet like that makes it a cinch for the other fellow. Get yourposition now and hold it until the ball's passed. All right. Once more,Quarter."

  "36--27--43--86!" wailed McPhee. "36--27----"

  The pigskin shot into his waiting hands, Gordon leaped forward, took itat a hand-pass and ran out behind his line, left half in advance, turnedsharply in and set the ball down.

  "First down!" called McPhee. "Sturges over."

  "Hold up! Try a forward pass, McPhee. You're on the ten yards and it'sthird down. Get into this, you ends. Put some pep into it!"

  "Signal! Martin back! 37--32--14--71--Hep!" The backs jumped to the leftone stride. "37--32----"

  Back flew the ball to the full-back, right end shot out and down thefield across the mythical last line, the defence surged against theimaginary enemy and Martin, poising the ball at arm's length, threw overthe line to Lee.

  "All right," commented the coach. "That'll be all for today. Trot allthe way in, fellows."

  Five minutes later the field was empty of the sixty-odd boys who hadreported for the second day's practice and the sun was going down behindthe tree-clad hill to the west. In the gymnasium was the sound ofrushing water, of many voices and of scraping benches. Mr. Robey wormedhis way through the crowded locker-room to where Danny Moore, thetrainer, stood in the doorway of the rubbing-room in talk with JimMorton, this year's manager of the team. Morton was nineteen, tall, thinand benevolent looking behind a pair of rubber-rimmed spectacles.

  "Did you put them on the scales, Dan?" asked the coach.

  "Sure, the first, second and third, sir. Some of 'em dropped a goodthree pounds today. By gorry, I feel like I'd dropped that much meself!"

  "It certainly is warm. Look here, Jim, is this all we get to work on?How many were out today?"

  "Sixty-two, Coach. That's not bad. I suppose there'll be a few moredribble along tomorrow and the next day."

  "Well, they look pretty fair, don't you think? Some of the new fellowsseem to have ideas of football. All the last year fellows on hand?"

  "All but Gilbert. He hasn't shown up. I don't know why, I'm sure."

  "Better look him up," said the coach. "Gilbert ought to make a prettygood showing this year, and we aren't any too strong on guards."

  "Gilbert rooms with Tim Otis, I think," replied Morton. "Oh, Tim! TimOtis!"

  A light-haired boy of seventeen, very straight, and very pink where anenormous bath-towel failed to cover him, wormed his way to them.

  "Say, Tim, what's the matter with Gilbert?" asked Morton. "Isn't hecoming out?"

  Tim Otis shrugged a pair of broad, lean shoulders. "He hasn't got hereyet, Morton. I don't know what's happened. He wrote me two weeks agothat he'd meet me at the station in New York yesterday for thethree-fifty-eight, but he wasn't there and I haven't heard a word fromhim."

  "Probably missed his connection," suggested Morton. "He lives out Westsomewhere, doesn't he?"

  "Yes, Osawatomie, Kansas."

  "It probably takes a good while to get away from a place with a namelike that," said Mr. Robey drily. "Well, when he shows up, Otis, tellhim to get a move on if he wants a place."

  "Yes, sir, I will. I'm pretty certain he will be along today some time.I wouldn't be surprised if he was here now."

  "All right. By the way, Otis, how do you feel at right half? Seemstrange to you?"

  "No, sir, I don't notice it. I did play right, you know, two years agoon the second. Seems to me it's easier to take the ball from thatposition, too."

  "Well, don't try the fool trick your side-partner did today," said Mr.Robey, smiling. "Putting the ball under your elbow for a line plunge isa fine piece of business for a fellow who's been playing three years!"

  Tim laughed. "I guess he did that because it was just practice, sir. Heknows a lot better than to do it in scrimmage."

  "I hope so. Well, hurry Gilbert along, will you? If he doesn't get outhere inside of a few days he won't find much of a welcome, I'm afraid.I'm not going to keep positions open for anyone this year, not with thefirst game coming along in four days!"

  "Don't you worry, Mr. Robey," replied Tim, with a chuckle and a flash ofwhite teeth. "I'll have him out here the first day he shows up, even ifI have to lug him all the way. Don't think I'll have to, though, for youcouldn't keep Don from playing football unless you tied him up!"

  "Nice chap," commented Morton, nodding at Tim as the latter returned tohis bench. "Awfully clean-cut sort."

  "A fine lad," agreed Danny Moore, and Mr. Robey nodded thoughtfully.

  "I don't believe we're going to miss Kendall and Freer as much as Ithought," he said after a moment. "Otis looks to me like a fellow whowill stand a lot of work and grow on it. Well, I'm going to get a showerand get out of this sweat-box. As soon as you get time, Jim, I wishyou'd catalogue the players the way we did last year and let me havethe list. You know how Black did it, don't you?"

  "Yes, sir. I'll have the list ready for you tomorrow."

  "Good! Got a towel I can use, Dan? I haven't brought any yet. Thanks."The coach nodded and sought a place to disrobe. The trainer's gazefollowed him until he was lost to sight beyond the throng.

  "I wonder will he put it over again this year," he mused.

  "Surest thing you know," asserted Morton. "Think I'm going to have theteam licked the year I'm manager, Danny? Not so you'd notice it!"

  "Well, between you and him," chuckled Danny, "I've no doubt you'll turnout a fine team. Say, he's the lad that can do it, though, now ain't he?Four years he's been at it, and it's fifty-fifty now, ain't it?"

  "Yes, we lost the first two years and won last year and the year before.It was Andy Miller's team that started the ball rolling for us. No onecould have won those first two years, anyhow, Danny. Robey had to startat the bottom and build up the whole thing. We hadn't been playingfootball here for several years before that. It takes a couple of yearsat the least to get a foundation laid. If we win this year we'll havesomething to boast of. No other team ever beat Claflin three timesrunning."

  "Maybe we won't either. I'm hoping we do, though. Still and all, itdon't do to win too many times. You get to thinking you can't lose, d'yesee, and the first thing anyone knows you're all shot to pieces. I'veseen it happen, me boy."

  "Oh, I dare say, Danny, but don't let's start the losing streak untilnext year. I want to manage a winning team. Well, so long. See aboutsome cooler weather tomorrow, will you?"

  "I will so," replied the little trainer gravely. "I'll startarrangements to once."

  Meanwhile Tim Otis, again arrayed in grey flannels and a pair of tan,rubber-soled shoes rather the worse for a hard summer, was on his wayalong the Row to the last of the five buildings set end to end on thebrow of the hill. As he swung in between Wendell and Torrence--thegymnasium stood behind Wendell, and, save for the Cottage, as theprincipal's residence was called, was the only building out ofalignment--he saw the entrances to dormitories and Main Hall throngedwith youths who evidently preferred the coolness of outdoors to the heatof the rooms, while others were seated on the grass along the walk. Italmost seemed that the entire roster of some one hundred and eightystudents was before him. He answered many hails, but declined allinducements to tarry, keeping on his way past Main Hall and Hensey untilBillings was reached. There he turned in and tramped to the right alongthe first floor corridor to the open door of Number 6, a room on theback of the building that looked out upon the tennis courts and, beyond,the football and baseball fields. From the fact that no sound came fromthe room, Tim decided that Don Gilbert had, after all, and in spite ofwhat Tim called a "hunch," failed to arrive. But when he entered hismistake was instantly apparent. A maroon-coloured cushion hurtled towardhim, narrowly missing the green shade of the droplight on the studytable and, thanks to prompt and instinctive action on the part of Tim,sailed on, serene and unimpeded, into the corridor. Whereupon Timuttered a savage whoop of mingled joy and vengeance and, traversing thelength of the room in four leaps, hurled himself upon the occupant ofthe window-seat.