Part 1 out of 4
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[Illustration: COOTS WAS DOWNED BY A FIERCE TACKLE ON THE PART OF
THE BOYS OF COLUMBIA HIGH ON THE GRIDIRON
The Struggle for the Silver Cup
BY GRAHAM B. FORBES
AUTHOR OF "THE BOYS OF COLUMBIA HIGH," "THE BOYS OF COLUMBIA HIGH
ON THE DIAMOND," ETC.
I. OUT FOR PRACTICE
II. ON THE ROAD TO TOWN
III. THE STRANGE HISTORY OF RALPH
IV. TREACHERY IN THE CAMP
V. THE SIGNAL PRACTICE
VI. AT THE SINGING SCHOOL
VII. THE ABDUCTION OF "BONES"
VIII. THE LINE-UP WITH CLIFFORD
IX. A HARD FOUGHT FIRST-HALF
X. A SCENE NOT DOWN ON THE BILLS
XI. CLIFFORD'S LAST HOPE
XII. DR. SHADDUCK FEARS AN EPIDEMIC
XIII. THE GREAT MARSH
XIV. THE DANGERS OF THE MUCK HOLE
XV. FRANK TURNS CHAUFFEUR
XVI. AN UNWILLING PILOT
XVII. A DESPERATE REMEDY
XVIII. MATCHING WITS
XIX. AT THE END OF THE CIRCUIT
XX. FRANK'S LUCK
XXI. THE LIFTING OF THE CLOUD
XXII. HOW BELLPORT BUCKED THE LINE
XXIII. WON BY FOUR INCHES
XXIV. THE MESSAGE FROM TOKIO--CONCLUSION
THE BOYS OF COLUMBIA HIGH ON THE GRIDIRON
OUT FOR PRACTICE
"Oh, what a splendid kick!"
The yellow pigskin football went whizzing through the air, turning
over and over in its erratic flight.
"Wow! Look at old Sorreltop run, will you?"
"He's bound to get under it, too. That's going some, fellows! Oh,
"Ha! ha! a fumble and a muff, after all! That's too bad, after
such a great gallop. Now Clack's got the ball, and a clear field
ahead for a run! Go it, you wild broncho! Say, look there, will
you, Tony; Ralph West thinks he can tackle that flying tornado!"
"Will he? Maybe, maybe not, fellows!" called out the ever-skeptical
Jack Eastwick, as he watched the rapidly nearing figures. Jack
was on the regular team, but not playing that afternoon.
"There, he's done it! Wasn't that tackle a screamer, though? That
man West belongs with the regulars. He's too good for the scrub
team. Mark my words, when we go up against Clifford he'll be doing
duty with Columbia's eleven!"
"Bah!" sneered Tony Gilpin. "He's still only a greeny; never saw a
football till he came here last year. Bones Shadduck taught him
all he knows about the game. Take him away from his teacher, and
the little boy would be hopelessly foundered, and you know it,
too, Herman Hooker."
Herman was Columbia's "cheer captain." His sonorous voice aroused
more enthusiasm among the struggling athletes when the prospects
seemed dark and forbidding, than all other elements combined. As
soon as it boomed out over a hotly-contested field, every Columbia
fellow seemed to take on fresh confidence, and in many instances
that meant a new determination to win the victory.
Herman looked at the last speaker, and smiled broadly. It was well
known among the students of Columbia High School that Tony Gilpin
still entertained great hopes of holding his place on the regular
team; but his play was not up to the standard of the preceding
year, and dark hints had gone abroad that in all probability he
would be dropped, for "a dark horse."
As this latter must of necessity be taken from the scrub team, it
can be easily understood why Tony showed so much concern over the
playing of the newcomer, Ralph West.
"Why ain't you practicing with your team this P. M., instead of
loafing around here watching the scrub eleven do things." remarked
Charlie Scott, one of the group. "It can't be possible that a
seasoned veteran of two years' experience can pick up points from
"I strained my leg a bit yesterday, and the coach advised me to
give it a rest for a day. When I tackle I'm apt to go at a man
without regard to consequences; and sometimes the jar is fierce,"
explained Tony, sneeringly.
"Well, if you can beat that work of Ralph West, you're going some,
now; take it from me, son," commented Herman, with fatherly
interest, and simply a desire to see the best man on the regular
team when the auspicious day dawned that lined Columbia's eleven
up against the warriors of Clifford.
Tony made no verbal reply, but his brow grew dark, as he once
again shot a look of hatred toward the player who had made that
brilliant flying tackle.
The big town of Columbia was situated on the Harrapin River, with
Clifford nearly four miles above, and the manufacturing town of
Bellport twice that distance down-stream.
Of course, as each of these bustling places boasted of a high
school, the consequent rivalries of the students had blossomed out
into a league. In various sports they were determined rivals, and
the summer just passed had witnessed a bitter fight between the
baseball clubs of the three towns, in which Columbia won out after
a fierce contest.
Among the Columbia students there were also strivings after
supremacy in many gymnastic feats, as well as between the several
classes, each of which was jealous of the others when it came to
giving spreads. Many of the deeply interesting happenings along
this line that marked the preceding Winter and Spring have been
chronicled in the first volume of this series, called: "The Boys
of Columbia High; or, The All-Around Rivals of the School."
With the coming of the season for outdoor sports, there was
baseball in the air from morning to night, in preparation for the
carnival of games mapped out for the schedule between the three
schools. What thrilling contests took place, and with what final
results, can be found in the second story of this series, bearing
the title, "The Boys of Columbia High on the Diamond; or, Winning
Out by Pluck."
When the Glorious Fourth came along, the river that flowed past
the three towns was the scene of a most remarkable gathering; for
the annual regatta between the boat clubs of the high schools had
been set down for observance. To enjoy the humor of the tub
races, and experience the thrills that accompanied the flight of
the rival four-oared and eight-oared shells over the scheduled
course, the reader must peruse the third volume, called: "The Boys
of Columbia High on the River; or, The Boat Race 'Plot That
And now vacation having ended, and school being once more under
full swing, with the dropping of the highly-colored leaves from
the woods along the banks of the picturesque Harrapin, there was
heard little save football talk on the campus, and wherever the
sons of old Columbia High congregated.
A well-to-do widow, in memory of her boy, Wallace Todd, who had
died the preceding year while a student at the high school, had
offered a beautiful silver cup to the victor in the football
contests, the winning team to hold it for an entire season.
It was to be known as the Wallace Cup, and every day crowds stood
before the window of the silversmith's store in Columbia, admiring
its magnificent proportions.
Squads of boys even came by trolley from Bellport, and openly
boasted as to their intention to carry that same trophy home with
them after the struggles on the gridiron had been finished.
The group of lads watching the work of the scrub team consisted of
various types among the students and town fellows.
Presently, however, Tony Gilpin nudged another fellow and beckoned
him away. He knew full well that Asa Barnes, now a senior, and a
class ahead of him, had only bitter feelings for several in that
scrub team, and chief of all the captain, Bones Shadduck.
Lately both Tony and Asa had taken a notion that they would like
to join the Delta Pi fraternity. To their disgust, however, they
were blackballed, some among the members objecting to receiving
fellows with their known reputation for mischief and evil-doing.
In some way they conceived the idea that Bones Shadduck was
primarily responsible for their humiliation. They never accused
him of it, but nursed their fancied grievance, and planned to have
revenge in some fashion.
Tony was looking more than ordinarily ugly as he strolled away
with Asa Barnes.
The broad hint which one of his companions had advanced regarding
his rather poor chances of holding down his position as a Columbia
half-back against the aspirations of Ralph West, the boy from
Paulding, had fired his heart anew with a fierce desire to take
matters into his own hands, and remedy them.
"Well, what's your opinion, Asa?" demanded Tony, as they sauntered
along. "You said you'd be square with me. What d'ye think of that
dub's playing? Is he going to make it, and knock me off the
Asa Barnes was nothing, if not a sneak. Throughout his entire
career at school he had been looked upon as a species of snake,
and had few friends. Even those who did go with him, on account of
his having unlimited spending money, always kept a cautious eye
out for treachery.
"Oh, you're going to get it where the chicken did--in the neck!"
he replied cheerfully, with a grin that told of secret pleasure,
for he liked to see others suffer.
"No kidding now, but tell me the truth for once. Is Ralph West the
wonder they make out? Can he play half-back better than I do? I'm
not from Missouri, but, all the same, I want to know; for it's
going to settle a question I've had in my mind a long time. Cut
in, now!" exclaimed Tony, wrathfully.
"He's all to the good," replied the other, grimly, "and when I say
that, disliking the fellow as I do, you can understand it means
something. I never saw a quicker half-back in my life; and when it
comes to making a tackle, the fellow doesn't really know what fear
is! If they put him on the regulars, there's going to be something
doing among those long-legged chaps from Clifford."
Tony growled like a bear with a sore head; he also cast a side
look at his companion, as though questioning his sincerity. Asa
liked to see anyone squirm, and often did and said things just for
that privilege. His companions had long ago declared that he was
cut out for a surgeon--or a butcher, like his father.
"Once for all, do you mean that?" hissed the enraged boy, laying a
quivering hand on his comrade's arm.
"I certainly do. He's got the Indian sign on you, Tony, for fair.
Mark my words, when I predict that, _unless something unusual
happens_ between now and next Saturday, when we play Clifford,
Ralph West is going to take your place at left half-back!"
The other fairly glared at him.
"Well, you're awful plain about it, Asa," he muttered.
"You told me to be, and I'm giving you my honest opinion. But, all
the same now, I don't think this disaster will happen," Asa added,
with a grin at the other.
"Oh, you don't, eh? What's going to prevent it?" demanded Tony.
"You are, unless I'm mighty much mistaken in your make-up," said
the other boy, promptly. "Remember what we agreed to do about that
Bones Shadduck, for getting us knocked down with that measly old
Delta Pi business? Well, there's a pair of 'em now!"
"Do you mean it. Will you stick with me if I try to knock West
out, so he won't be able to play football again for weeks? Are you
game, or do you mean to egg me on to the last ditch, and then
sidestep, leaving me to shoulder all the blame?"
Tony's face was eager, and the light in his eyes told of a fierce
desire to do something mean that would accomplish the desire of
His companion laughed as though it might be a joke. Asa was so
used to others suspecting his honesty of purpose that he never
seemed to get offended when they doubted his word. Another boy
might have shown temper, but Asa never did this. He might grit his
teeth behind a fellow's back, and vow to get even for an insult;
but to his face he was either smiling or sneering, as the humor
"Yes, I'll help you out. Remember, it isn't because I feel for
you," he said, quickly, as though he feared lest he should
actually be considered as possessing any consideration for a
comrade. "I've got my own little axe to grind, you see. The fellow
happens to be sweet on Helen Allen, and once on a time she used to
go with me to parties and the like. You understand, don't you,
"Sure. And there's nothing that burns so deep as that. Then it's
settled that we're going to lay for both Ralph and Bones at the
very first chance, with some fellows we can depend on, and do
them up? That's the programme, Asa?"
"I leave the particulars to you. Meanwhile I'll drum up a few
recruits to make the crowd. Just now I know of three bully fellows
who happen to have it in for either Ralph or Bones. You get as
many, and then there's going to be some fun doing," and Asa
laughed in the cold-blooded fashion that made so many dislike him.
"Well, when a fellow is bruised to beat the band, not to speak of
possibly a broken rib or two, he ain't going to play football in a
hurry," grunted Tony.
The other cast a quick look at his companion.
"You don't want to go too far, old chap. If he happened to be
seriously hurt, we might be called on to explain before Professor
Parke," he observed.
So talking, they sauntered along the road again, having paused to
exchange the significant remarks as to their intentions.
Hardly had they gone twenty feet away, than a head was cautiously
raised above an old log that lay just within the edge of the
woods, and a white face looked rather fearfully after the pair of
ON THE ROAD TO TOWN
"Hello, Ralph, through practice here? Then walk home with me, and
take supper at the house, won't you? I've got some things I want
to talk over with you."
"Yes, we're done working, and I'll be glad to walk with you; but
if I'm to sit down at your table, you'll have to wait for me to
dress and clean myself. Will we have time?" And Ralph's face told
how much he appreciated a chance to spend an evening at the home
of Frank Allen, his friend and chum; for his boarding house room
did look a bit cheerless at night time.
"Plenty of time, old fellow. How did the practice go to-day?
Getting in trim, do you think?" asked Frank, who, as a senior, and
the captain and full-back of the regular football squad, was
supposed to have an intense interest in everything that took place
on the practice field day by day.
"Oh, pretty well, I think. I'm not wholly satisfied with myself,
but I believe I'm improving every day," replied the other,
Frank looked sideways at his friend, and smiled. He had just been
talking with the coach, and heard what he had to say about the
scrub team. It was already understood between them that two of the
regulars must give way to better men who shone as stars on the
scrub. Columbia wanted her best sons in front, regardless of any
Coach Willoughby was back again, visiting at the home of Buster
Billings' folks. He said the "lure of the leather" was too much
for him, bringing back those dear old college days when he played
on the Princeton eleven, and carried the ball over Yale's line
for a hard-fought victory.
And so he had consented to take charge of the Columbia players,
and help them get in condition for the work ahead, when they were
to meet the brawny cohorts of Clifford, and those others from
Frank and Ralph had not gone more than fifty yards down the dusty
road leading from the recreation field to the town center, perhaps
a full mile away, when Ralph felt a sharp tug at his arm.
"Hello! what's this?" he said, looking down at a small girl, who
seemed so shy that her face was covered with blushes as she pulled
at his sleeve.
"Please, Mr. West, I'd like to say something to you," she said,
"Why, it's Madge Smalling, Mary's older sister!" exclaimed Ralph,
showing new interest.
In the Spring he had been instrumental in finding a little girl
who had hurt herself seriously, in the woods. At the time, Ralph
was on his way to the recreation field, where he was expected to
pitch a game against a rival school. Still, as he could not think
of leaving the child there to suffer, he had carried her to the
mill where her father was employed.
Since that time, he had been a welcome visitor at the home of the
Smallings, and, of course, was well known to this girl of nine,
who had been away at the time of Mary's adventure.
"Shall I walk on," asked Frank, with a wink, "because, you know,
there are times when two is company, three none."
"None of your joshing, now," said Ralph, and then, turning to the
child, he continued: "I hope nothing is wrong over at your house,
"Oh, no, sir. It wasn't that. I heard something about you, and I
wanted to tell you right away, 'cause I'm afraid of that bad boy.
Once he threw water on me, and laughed when I cried. Then he put a
nasty cold frog in my hand, and made me hold it ever so long."
Ralph looked at his friend. "Whoever can she mean, and what has
that got to do with me?" he said, wonderingly.
"The other boy called him Asa," remarked Madge, quickly.
"Oh, now I begin to see light. And was the second chap called
Tony?" Ralph asked.
"Oh, yes, that was it. I saw them coming along the road, and I
was afraid that he had another nasty frog. So I hid behind a log,"
the child went on, her face showing the deep interest she felt
in her own recital.
"Say, Frank, this grows exciting. Tony and Asa walking along with
their heads close together means trouble for someone, perhaps even
me. And this little girl, hiding behind a log, hears them
plotting. Now, what d'ye think of that for thrilling a fellow's
nerve? What did they say, Madge? Can you remember?" he asked,
looking down into the girl's face reassuringly, and stroking her
"Oh, I didn't understand it all, but they hated you, and said they
must get some other bad boys to beat you, so you couldn't play
ball again. If you only saw his face when he said that! It was so
fierce I just shivered. I hope they don't do it to you, Mr. West.
It would be worse than a nasty, cold frog."
Again the two lads exchanged glances.
"Aha!" chuckled Frank, "the plot thickens. Tony feels the chill
of coming events, and wants to make sure that you will never
displace him on the regular team. I'm not so much surprised,
though. It wouldn't be the first time a candidate has been marked
for assault in the hope of putting him out of the running. An
ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. And since we
know now what is in the wind, we must be doubly on our guard. I
suspected that some of them, Lef Seller and his crowd, perhaps,
might have it in for me, but it seems that you are the goat,
"Well, I'm ever so much obliged to Madge here for telling me. And
next time I come out to her house I'm going to fetch along a box
of candy to pay the debt," said Ralph, kindly.
"You always do that, anyway," declared the child, promptly, at
which Frank burst into another laugh.
"Oh, all your secrets will come out, one by one, old fellow. I
think I'll have to post my sister Helen on your double dealing.
She might be jealous of Mary and Madge," he declared.
"Don't you worry. Helen has walked out there with me more than
once. They're all very fond of your sister, Frank," declared
Ralph, blushing a little.
"Well, you don't blame them, do you?" asked the brother,
promptly; which caused his friend to bend down to shake hands and
bid the little maid good-by.
As the two boys tramped along toward Frank's home, they naturally
talked again of the unpleasant news that had been brought to their
attention in so singular a way.
"I wish I knew just what to do about it," said Frank, frowning
with displeasure, "It's certainly a most unsportsmanlike spirit to
show, knocking your school colors, because you can't play. I call
that a rule-or-ruin policy. Do you suppose, if we told the boys,
it would put a stop to the nasty game?"
"We have no proof, for they wouldn't be apt to take a child's word
for much. So I'm afraid it wouldn't be just the wisest thing to
tell it broadcast," answered the serious Ralph.
"Anyhow, I mean to take a few of my special friends into council,
and warn them what we're up against. From this time on you need a
guardian squad, Ralph," the other went on.
"Why me more than any other fellow?" asked Ralph.
"I'll tell you, though I meant to keep it until to-night. Coach
Willoughby finally made up his mind, though nobody knows it but
myself. He means to drop two fellows off the team to-morrow--Tony
Gilpin and George Andersen; the former because he fails to come up
to the scratch, and George on account of that old injury to his
leg, which is cropping up again. He was our star player last year,
and we are going to miss him a heap."
"Yes, I supposed poor George would have to go, but expected Tony
would hold on," remarked Ralph, quietly.
"And the coach has decided that _you_ are to take the place
of Tony as left half-back. I'm awful glad of it! I purposely kept
my hands off, because I wanted merit and not favoritism to bring
the change about. Shake on it, Ralph!"
"And I'm glad, too," remarked the other, his voice quivering a
little with his emotion; "not that I like to supplant any other
fellow, but I believe it's only right that every one of Columbia's
sons should cherish an earnest desire to make the best of what
there is in him. I only hope the coach isn't making a serious
mistake, that's all."
"I know he isn't, and the other fellows will say so, too, when
they hear. Tony isn't a popular player at all, and when there is
dissension in a baseball nine or a football eleven, it's going to
make trouble. 'Beware the worm i' the bud,' you know. But these
cowards may find that they're up against a tougher proposition
than they suspect, before they're done with it."
Frank was even more indignant at the possibility of peril
overhanging the head of his chum, than if it had threatened
himself. That is ever the way with generous souls.
"Three days more, and then comes Clifford after our scalp,"
remarked Ralph, desirous of dropping the unpleasant subject for
the time being.
"Yes, and although Bellport beat them last Saturday 17 to 4, we
mustn't imagine Clifford is going to be an easy mark for us.
Perhaps they may fancy our style of play, and rub it all over us.
Nobody can say until we've met, and fought it out," was Frank's
"I agree with you on that score," declared his companion:
"Clifford was unfortunate in many ways. She lost three of her best
men through accidents, while Bellport did not. Then some people
hint that her secret signals were given away, because the Bellport
players seemed to be ready to meet every sudden move Clifford
"Yes, I heard that, too, and while I hate to believe any fellow
could be so low as to betray his school to the enemy, it's been
done before. We must be doubly on our guard against such a thing.
I've been thinking up a little scheme that would upset anything
like that. But we haven't started with signals yet, keeping that
until to-morrow, when the real team as selected will come
"I can guess what you've got in mind, Frank, but I'm not asking
questions. Only I do hope nothing prevents me from going into
that game. Somehow, all my life I've just longed to be a football
player. There's something about the game that seems to just stir
me up, as even baseball couldn't. And yet nobody would call me a
scrapper either," remarked Ralph.
"Oh, it isn't that always. Lots of good football players are
quiet, modest fellows, ready to mind their own business, if let
alone. I guess it must be something in a fellow's nature that
makes him long to buck up against difficulties, and down them. And
seeing that you've always been so quiet and unassuming a fellow, I
hardly know how to apply that to you, either. It's just born in a
man, that's what," and Frank clapped his hand affectionately on
his chum's shoulder.
Others were streaming along the road at the same time, homeward
"Look out, here comes a vehicle back of us," said Ralph presently,
when they were about half-way to Columbia Center.
They stepped to the side of the road, to allow the carriage to
"Why, it's Minnie Cuthbert and a friend!" said Ralph, suddenly.
At that Frank turned hastily, the color flying to his face like
magic; for that same name always had a wonderful influence over
him, since he and Minnie had long been the warmest of friends.
The pretty girl who held the reins urged her horse on. There was a
look in her face that Frank had never seen there before. She
stared straight at him, as he took off his cap and bowed, but not
by the slightest sign did she give any evidence of being aware
that such a person as Frank Allen existed.
It was the cut direct!
Ralph uttered an exclamation of amazement. Quickly he glanced at
his chum, to see that Frank had gone deadly white, and his eyes
glittered with sudden spasm of pain that seized upon him.
He drew a long breath, and tried to get a grip on himself.
"Say, that hurt some, I tell you, Ralph. I never expected to be
cut by Minnie Cuthbert, that's sure," he said, between his set
Ralph was sorely puzzled. He remembered that Minnie really owed
her life to the wonderful presence of mind of Frank, when a
runaway horse had threatened to bring disaster down upon her.
"What's happened?" he asked, eyeing his friend.
"You know as much as I do. It's a mystery to me," returned Frank.
"Perhaps Lef Seller could tell; he's just back of us, and I heard
him laugh as he saw Minnie drive past without speaking," suggested
the other, meaningly.
"I wonder now if history has a habit of repeating itself,"
ventured Frank. "But what can I do but grin and bear it? Sooner or
later she'll find out the truth. I'll never ask for an explanation,
knowing that I've done nothing to make her act so. Now, forget it,
and let's talk about your affairs, Ralph."
THE STRANGE HISTORY OF RALPH
"If you don't mind, Frank, I'd like to go out of my way a few
steps, so as to stop at the post-office. There's a late mail comes
in after the last delivery by carrier," observed Ralph, after they
had reached town.
"Why, certainly," returned the other, quickly, as he glanced at
Ralph, who smiled half sadly and nodded.
"I keep hoping to hear something from your Uncle Jim. It may come
any day now, unless the very worst has happened, and they're all
lost over in that big wild country," said Ralph, drawing a long
"When did you hear from him last?" asked his friend, as they
turned the corner into the main street of Columbia.
"A month ago. You know, from England they had gone to India. He
wrote me from there that he had just missed Mr. Arnold Musgrove
and his widowed sister, Mrs. John Langworthy, who had sailed for
"Yes, I remember all that. The lady has always been a very great
traveler, and something of an explorer. You told me she was
intending to do something that few strong men had ever attempted,"
remarked Frank, wonderfully interested in all that pertained to
the strange history of this boy friend.
Ralph had been brought up as the son of the Wests, living in the
village of Paulding. Then there had come a letter by mail,
accompanying bank notes to the extent of fifty dollars, and
telling him that a friend, knowing of his great ambition to get an
education above what the little country school could afford,
wished him to accept this gift, which would be duplicated every
Ralph, with the assistance of his good friend, Frank, had learned
that the money came through a lawyer in New York, really an uncle
of young Allen. Then, later on, it was found that Ralph was only
an adopted son of the Wests, who had taken him from a poorhouse.
By degrees, it came out that the man who had left this sum with
the lawyer, Mr. Arnold Musgrove, must be an uncle of the boy, who
was, in all probability, a son of the rich widow.
Judge Jim had immediately set out for Europe, to confront
Musgrove, and tell the lady that her child was not dead, as she
believed, but could be restored to her. And, as Ralph had just
said, the legal gentleman soon found that he was going to have the
time of his life overtaking the energetic couple.
"Well," remarked Ralph, in answer to the inquiry of his chum, "she
and her brother actually started with a caravan overland across
China, skirting Thibet, and aiming to head northeast, so as to
pass through a portion of Siberia, and after that reach Russia.
They have been gone a long time now, and I wonder if I will ever
see her face. Sometimes it seems too good to be true."
There was no letter at the post-office for Ralph. He was getting
used to this daily disappointment. Still, Frank could see the look
of pain that flashed across Ralph's fine face, though he tried to
conceal it with a little laugh.
Arrived at his boarding place, the boys entered. It did not take
Ralph long to take a bath, and get into his ordinary clothes,
after which they hurried to the Allen home, where Frank followed
Although Frank said nothing more about the strange actions of
Minnie, it was very plain to his friend that he felt the snub
"If I thought he wouldn't be mad with me, I'd be tempted to try
and find out from Minnie what she meant," Ralph was saying to
himself, as he sat opposite his chum at the table, and noticed the
little frown that occasionally came upon the open countenance of
the one he had in mind.
But he knew Frank's ways, and that the other would not like any
meddling in his own private affairs.
"Better let him settle it in his own fashion," was the conclusion
Ralph reached. "But if Lef Seller has had anything to do with it,
I'm sorry for him, that's all. Once Frank makes up his mind that
these pranks of Lef have reached a limit, he's going to give him
an _awful_ licking; and I know it."
Frank had been watching his sister Helen at supper. He knew that
there was something worrying her, too, and the strange thought
came that perhaps it might be along the same lines as his own
"I wonder, now, could that be possible?" was the question that
kept confronting him.
Having once given way to this suspicion, he could not refrain from
trying to find out the truth. Helen had gone upstairs, on some
small excuse. He was surprised to find her in her room, and with
traces of tears in her beautiful eyes.
"Why, what's the matter, sister mine? Has anyone been abusing you?
I wonder if I could guess. Is it about Minnie?" he asked, gently,
for Frank was very fond of his only sister, but two years younger
She looked at him in surprise.
"Why, Frank, however did you guess?" she exclaimed.
"Because," he replied, steadily, "she gave me the cut direct when
Ralph and myself were heading home from the athletic field this
evening. She and Dottie Warren were in the carriage, and Minnie
looked right through me when I bowed. Whew! it gave me a shock, I
"The mean thing, to carry it to you! I suppose I've said something
or other to give her offense, although I tried in vain to remember
any cause; but since she chooses to include all my family in her
resentment, I'm not going to do the least thing in the way of an
apology," exclaimed Helen, warmly.
"I'm of the impression that it's me who's to blame, though I don't
know what I've done," said Frank, immediately. "If I did, I'd
apologize decently, and have it over with, whether she accepted it
or not. But Ralph suggests that perhaps it's the work of some
outsider, who wants to make trouble between Minnie and the
"Oh, how mean! And from the way you talk, I can imagine who it is
you have in mind. That wouldn't be the first time Lef Seller has
been guilty of meddling!" exclaimed the girl, indignantly.
"It was Ralph who said that. He heard Lef laugh when she cut me,
as if it tickled him. If I could only get proof that he's been
telling yarns about me, I'd soon settle old scores with him. But
you won't try to make up, will you Helen?"
"Certainly not! I'm the innocent party. Minnie chose to give me to
understand that she'd prefer to go out with Dottie this afternoon.
I just turned away and came straight home. I think she called out
after me, but I wouldn't turn my head an inch. I shall decline to
ever speak to her again until the time comes when she apologizes.
There!" and Helen stamped her little foot on the floor, for
Frank sighed, and went back to the library, where Ralph was
chatting with Mr. Allen, always deeply interested in the strange
life story of the boy from Paulding.
Three times that evening Frank went to the telephone and held a
little confab with some unknown parties. Each time when he came
back he would be smiling in a way that mystified his friend, who
wondered what the particular business could be that took up so
much of his time.
But then, a captain of a school football eleven, on the eve of a
great struggle, must have no end of difficulties to straighten
out; and doubtless Frank found much to talk about with the various
members of his team.
Helen had come down again, and showed nothing of the dreadful
shock her feelings had sustained when her one particular chum so
basely deserted her.
She sang for Ralph, and the three of them also joined their voices
in many of the school songs dear to the heart of all Columbia
"Ten o'clock, and time I was getting away to my little den,"
remarked Ralph, at last; for even the best of evenings must come
to an end.
"Wait just a few minutes," said Frank, mysteriously.
"What's all this? You're up to something or other," laughed the
"I'm waiting, that's all," returned Frank, calmly.
"Waiting for what?"
"To hear the signal--there it is!" as three distinct knocks
sounded on the outside of the house.
"Why, whatever does it mean, Frank," asked the visitor, as he
arose to get his cap: for they were again in the little den Frank
called his sanctum, where he kept all his beloved traps connected
with the sports he delighted in, most of them decorating the
"They're all on deck, thank goodness! And now it's safe for you to
go home," was the rather startling remark of the other.
Ralph looked at the speaker a moment, and then, as a light dawned
upon his comprehension, he burst out into a genuine, hearty,
"Say, you don't mean to tell me you've gone and got a bodyguard to
escort me to my own dear little home, do you, Frank? Well, of all
the pranks, this certainly takes the cake! What do you think, that
they're already getting down to their fine little work, and mean
to kidnap me?" he exclaimed, greatly amused.
"No, but I know that crowd better than you do. When two sneaks
like Tony Gilpin and Asa Barnes make up their minds to gather a
bunch of skunks after their own stripe, and waylay a fellow they
hate, they lose no time about it. There's only one more day
between now and Saturday, when we play Clifford; and I saw them
turning to notice whether we kept on together. They know you are
"But I might slip out the back way, and give them the merry ha!
ha!" suggested Ralph; "though I hate to crawl that way from such
cowards, not one of them willing to face me outright."
"But that isn't it. We have talked it over, and come to the
conclusion that half of the fun would be lost unless those whelps
were treated to a dose of their own medicine. They need a good
sound licking, and I give you my word for it, they're due for one
if they try to tackle you on the road home to-night," and Frank,
as he spoke, brought his fist down sharply on his knee.
"Who did you invite to the party?" inquired Ralph, still laughing
at the absurdity of his requiring a bodyguard.
"Let me see," replied Frank. "There's Lanky Wallace, for one;
Buster Billings, for the second, and Paul Bird, for the third."
"Three good men, and true. I see that I'll be well protected on my
journey of half a dozen blocks!" cried Ralph.
"Oh, that's only a beginning. Each one of them agreed to get two
other fellows belonging to the team, if possible; for they want
all the practice they can get. So there will be nine in the bunch
that follows after you; ten, counting myself!"
"Oh, splash! That's an army! Why so many, Frank, when I'd be
willing to go anywhere with just you along for company," demanded
"Thanks for the compliment; but, you see, everybody wanted to go,
and bring others, and so I had to let 'em have their way. Now,
you'll probably never see a sign of our crowd as you walk along,
whistling and seeming to be unsuspicious. But at the first sign of
trouble, lift your sweet voice and sing out the rallying cry we
all know, 'Columbiad!' That will fetch us on the jump, Ralph. Hold
them off as best you can for a dozen seconds, and then prepare to
"All right, seeing that it's your joke. Honestly, I don't think
they'll pay any attention to poor me; but since Coach Willoughby
believes I ought to play with the regulars, and any hurt to one is
an injury to all, I'll accept the guard of honor; only _please_
don't tell anyone about it to-morrow, unless you want me to be the
butt of ridicule for the whole school."
"Wait and see," was all Frank would say; and with this Ralph had
to be content.
The two friends separated at the door. Frank rather ostentatiously
bade his visitor good-night, and Ralph sauntered down the walk to
the gate, as the door closed.
Although he looked around once or twice, and thought he caught a
fleeting glimpse of several flitting figures, Ralph walked bravely
on his way, whistling merrily, as though he had not a care or
trouble in the wide world.
When he had gone a couple of blocks, he came to a portion of the
road when the shadows were densest. Here the trees grew close to
the thoroughfare, and this fact made it a splendid hiding place
for anyone so inclined. There was a legend told of a peddler who
had, once upon a time, been set upon by tramps at this point, and
robbed and beaten, so that he died of his hurts.
Even bold people were wont to hurry their steps a trifle when
passing this ill-omened place. Ralph, however, kept on at his
customary pace, still whistling one of the songs he had so lately
sung with Frank and Helen Allen.
Just as he was half-way past the shadowy spot, he heard a sudden
shrill sound, not unlike a referee's whistle on the football
gridiron. Dark figures immediately sprang up close by, and the
rush of many feet told that the danger anticipated by Frank was
about to materialize.
Ralph at once threw himself into a position of self defense, and
at the same time shouted out the call for assistance so well known
to all the sons of Columbia High.
TREACHERY IN THE CAMP
It was the call for assistance, known to, and respected by, every
boy who loved the name of Columbia High School--a rallying cry in
time of emergency, when the enemy had carried the ball down close
to the home goal, and almost supernatural efforts were needed, in
order to beat back the rising tide.
Never did the old familiar yell of "Hey, Rube!" appeal more
positively to canvasmen connected with a traveling circus, when
set upon by rowdies in some wayside town, than did this shout.
Ralph had no time for more. From three sides he found himself
attacked by unknown foes. Some had their hats drawn far over their
faces, in order to conceal their identity, while others had gone
still further, and tied handkerchiefs over the lower half, with
the same purpose in view.
A jargon of angry cries arose, each assailant seeming desirous of
venting his especial method for showing dislike.
"Down him, boys!"
"Spank the cub!"
"Send him back where he belongs; we don't want poorhouse brats
"Do him up! Butt in, fellows! Make a clean sweep of it now!"
Among all these outcries, only that one concerning the "poorhouse"
stung the ears of the boy at bay. It was so cruel, so mean, so
utterly uncalled for, that his whole body seemed to quiver with
indignation, and a burning fire shot through his veins.
He had thrown himself into an attitude of self defense, with his
back against a tree. In this way he was able to avoid considerable
punishment, since the attacking force could not completely
surround him, the tree being an unusually big one.
[Illustration: HE HAD THROWN HIMSELF INTO AN ATTITUDE OF
So far as he could see, there were at least half a dozen opposed
to him. Evidently Tony and Asa did not mean to take any chances
when trying to put the new candidate for honors on the regular
team out of the running.
What with all the row connected with their rush, the cowardly
assailants were themselves unable to hear the patter of
swiftly-approaching footsteps, coming from the rear. They evidently
shouted, in order to keep their courage up, and prevent Ralph from
recognizing any one particular voice.
The beleaguered boy was himself fighting like a cat at bay. He had
no positive assurance that friends were near, and with so many
eager hands striving to reach his face and body, he had to
retaliate, giving blow for blow.
Once he managed to dash his clenched fist into the face of a
fellow who, in his eagerness, had rushed in too close.
"Wow!" bellowed the stricken party, and somehow it seemed to Ralph
that the voice was that of Tony Gilpin.
More than once he was himself the recipient of blows, some severe
and others of a glancing nature. For a brief period of time there
was a constant maelstrom of hands flying back and forth,
accompanied with shouts, jeers and grunts.
"Oh, you cowards!" called Ralph, as a blow struck him on the back
of the head, and almost stunned him for a second; one of the
crowd, not daring to face the boy at bay, having crept alongside
the tree to watch his chance.
He could easily believe that this was Asa Barnes. Immediately a
mad desire possessed him to pounce upon that sneak and return the
blow with interest. Despite the array of threatening fists that
formed a half-circle in front, Ralph threw himself around to one
side of the tree, eager to come in contact with the object of his
So speedy were his movements that the treacherous one could not
get out of the way, nor was he, anticipating such a bold act on
the part of the boy who had been held up on the road.
Just as Ralph pounced vigorously upon him, he caught sight of a
number of dark figures jumping into the fray. At the same instant
new shouts arose, a volume of sound that made the welkin ring, and
brought satisfaction to the heart of the one in peril.
He knew then that his call for assistance had been heard--that
Frank and his football comrades had reached the spot, and were in
the act of practicing their gridiron tactics upon the unfortunates
who had fallen into the very trap they had themselves set.
"Help! help! fellows, take him off!" shrieked the one against whom
the angry Ralph had collided; for both of them had gone down in a
scrambling, kicking heap.
Fear caused the under dog to make frantic efforts to escape; and
while Ralph was able to get a little satisfaction out of his
attack, he found it utterly impossible to hang on to the squirming
figure, which, eluding his grasp, presently rolled over and over,
bounded to his feet, and fled like the wind.
Meanwhile there was taking place a furious fight. The disguised
crowd found itself outnumbered two to one, and while they struck
back whenever possible, the one thought in their minds was escape.
"Cut it!" shouted the one who seemed to be a leader.
"Don't let them get away! Take 'em prisoners!" whooped a tall lad,
who was doing his share of the mauling.
But that was easier said than done. The now sadly demoralized
enemy scattered in every direction, some running wildly down the
road, and others vanishing in the darkness of the wood.
"They're gone!" cried Lanky Wallace, in disgust, as he found that
the fellow he had embraced was no other than his fat friend,
"Let me go, hang it! You've squeezed the last breath out of me!
I'd had that dub, only for your interference. Such rotten luck!"
gasped the stout one, as he shook himself free from Lanky's
Frank was at the side of the boy they had rescued just in time.
"How is it, Ralph, did they pummel you hard?" he asked,
"I gave 'em more than I took; but my head sings a bit from the
nasty knock that sneak Asa Barnes gave me from behind!" replied
"From behind!" echoed Lanky, indignantly; "well, wouldn't that jar
you some now? But what else could you expect from that snake in
the grass? He never fought fair in all his life. I hope you got
one or two in back on him, Ralph."
"Didn't you hear him howl for help?" replied the other, quickly.
"That was when I nailed him. I guess his head rings about as much
as mine does. But, boys, you came just in time. I was in a tight
box. And I'm ever so much obliged for the help."
"Don't mention it, old chap. We really needed the exercise, and
the only thing I complain of is that it all happened too fast.
Why, I don't believe I really got my windmill working freely when
I was threshing the air. Zip! and they were gone," and Paul Bird
laughed heartily at the hasty way in which the enemy had vanished.
"You're sure they didn't get you?" persisted Frank.
"I guess I'm all right," laughed the other, as he swung both arms
back and forth, and bent his body to test his muscles; "you see,
there wasn't time enough for them to do much damage. And they were
all so mighty anxious to reach me they really interfered with each
"As we came up on the run, I thought I heard one fellow give a
whoop of pain, as if he had run up against something. Was that
your fault, Ralph?" demanded Lanky.
"Sure. And what's more, I expect it was Tony. If he shows a black
eye to-morrow, give me credit for one goal kicked, boys," replied the
Bones Shadduck was lighting a match.
"Hello! What's that for?" asked Jack Eastwick.
"I picked up a hat just now, and the idea struck me that possibly
there might be some more headgear lying around. We'd like to know
who these pirates are, you see, and here's a chance to get a line
on 'em," explained the other, as he bent low to scan the ground in
the immediate vicinity.
"Matches--who's got any? Pass 'em around, fellows!" called Buster.
Immediately there was quite an illumination around that part of
the road, half a dozen tiny torches burning at once, as eager eyes
scanned the ground. Twice cries of satisfaction announced that a
find had rewarded the search, but the supply of matches gave out,
and, besides, it seemed that there were no more hats or caps to be
"Three times, and out, boys! Now we'll be able to learn who some
of the crowd must have been. I think I ought to nail this gay old
cap. Nobody but Bill Klemm ever dared wear such a screamer as
that," announced Lanky, holding the object of his derision aloft.
"And this looks like the hat I turned over to Jay Tweedle the time
I accidentally knocked his off in the river, and it sank. I know
it is, fellows!" exclaimed Frank, who had been one of the lucky
"Well, we're getting a line on the bunch, all right," laughed
"If only Ralph marked both Tony and Asa, and we've got the hats of
three more, it looks good to me," chirped Lanky.
"Fall in, fellows!" called Bones Shadduck, assuming the air of a
drum major, as he waved an imaginary baton in the air.
With considerable talking and laughter, the squad gathered around
"Here, what's all this mean?" laughed Ralph. "Want to make me a
high muckamuck, a grand sachem surrounded by his valiant
bodyguard? I object. I'm only a common worm, like the rest of you,
and not fit for these great honors. Take Frank there, and put him
in the center of the bunch; he's the captain of the crew!"
"Worms! Hear him rant, fellows, will you? Compares us to the lowly
angleworm of commerce. And this is the reward we get for
sacrificing our sleep to rescue the perishing! I call it base
ingratitude, that's what!" cried one.
"But just now you're the guest of honor, Ralph; the one bright
particular star that has attracted the attention of all the meaner
ones. Just hold your row, and let us run this funeral, will you?"
"Oh, well, have it your own way, fellows. You're a good lot,
anyhow, to pull my chestnuts out of the fire for me," concluded
the one upon whom all these attentions were being showered.
And so they marched through the streets singing one of their
school songs. The good people of Columbia were quite accustomed to
such "stunts" on the part of the students, especially when there
was a day of sport close by. At such times the thriving town on
the bank of the Harrapin was wont to assume all the airs of a
college center, and enthusiasm run rampant.
So, while many heads were thrust from doorways or windows as the
procession trailed along, no adverse comments arose. Many of those
same men were old graduates themselves, and such patriotic songs
only served to awaken the spirit that never could be wholly
eradicated from their systems.
In such fashion was Ralph West conducted to his humble boarding
place. And hearty were the "good nights" that accompanied the
scattering of the band of defenders.
Frank and Lanky walked home together.
"That job's done, anyhow," remarked Frank, with evident satisfaction.
"And well done, too. Only one more night to consider, and the
glee club has its regular meeting then. We must keep a close watch
on Ralph. Those chumps mean to get him yet if they can. I only
hope I have just one more whack at some of that bunch. I never hit
a follow with more vim in my life than to-night, when I came up
against that chap with the handkerchief across his face."
"I heard him grunt," observed Frank, with a chuckle, "and really I
felt sorry for him. I think you struck him with both fists
together in the excitement. But it's a shame that Columbia fellows
are fighting among themselves just now, when we ought to be
united, and showing a common front against the enemy."
"Oh, these represent only a tail-end fragment. Don't count them as
much. Outside of possibly a dozen students, I firmly believe the
school _is_ united, and that you posses the confidence of the
whole town. This is our lucky year. I tell you we just _can't_
lose," and Lanky emphasized his words with a smack of one hand in
the palm of the other.
"I feel the same way," said Frank, "but, all the same, I'll be
better satisfied when the game has been played. There's many a
slip, you know. An accident might mar the finest play the gridiron
ever knew. And then the treachery of these fellows always annoys
me. An open foe I can meet boldly, but deliver me from the snake
in the grass that steals up in the rear to upset your calculations."
"Never mind, it'll be all right, Frank; but here we are at your
gate, so good night," and Lanky hurried on.
THE SIGNAL PRACTICE
The next day was Friday.
And with that battle of the gridiron gladiators looming up just
ahead, it can be readily understood that Mr. Amos Wellington, not
to mention Mr. Oswald, and the women teachers in Columbia High
School, found it a most difficult task to get any satisfaction out
of the many classes before them that day.
Football was in the air! The very tang of the frosty morning
seemed to suggest ideal weather conditions for the coming
struggle. Wherever boys congregated, on the campus before the
morning session, or down in the lunch room during intermission,
when they sampled the various types of sandwiches and pies
supplied by Mrs. Louden, nothing was talked of but the chances of
Columbia against the seasoned players of Clifford.
"They're heavier than our men," one would lament.
"But the day of weight in football is gone," cried another,
"Yes, for the game as played to-day calls for agility and
pertinacity more than heft. And we've got the boys who can do
stunts, believe me, fellows!" remarked a third deeply-interested
"They practice for the last time this afternoon, don't they?"
"Yes, but mostly on signals, I understand. Now the team has been
selected, they want to work in harmony," remarked the fellow who
seemed to know, because he had a big brother on the eleven, and
that was a great honor for the entire family.
"There's one weak spot," grumbled another prophet of evil.
"Name it, Sandy."
"Yes, tell us where it is. I've gone over the whole bunch ever so
many times, and with the new men I think it couldn't possibly be
"That's just it; you've put your finger on the sore the first
thing. Now, don't all jump on me at once, and say I'm knocking,
for I'm not. I think a heap both of Ralph West's playing and that
of Bones Shadduck. They're cracker jacks, and far superior to the
fellows they displaced."
"Then what are you kicking about, Sandy?" demanded Molly Manners,
the dudish student, who, while no athlete himself, always felt a
decided interest in the accomplishments of his more muscular
"Lack of practice in common will bankrupt us. That's what worries
me. You see, Bones and Ralph haven't worked with the rest, to any
extent, at least. How can they fill their parts in the machine?
I'm dubious, that's all, even while hoping for the best," went on
"Well, now, don't let that keep you awake tonight. Coach
Willoughby has been training the scrub just as he did the regular
team. They know the same plays, and once the signals are decided
on the whole thing will move along like a well greased machine.
He's done wonders with the raw material. And if Columbia wins this
year, much of the credit belongs to the trainer, our old Princeton
"Hear! hear! Three cheers for Coach Willoughby!"
And they were given with a will.
Frank and Ralph came together at intermission. While they munched
a bit of lunch, they naturally fell into conversation, and, of
course, their talk must be in connection with the stirring events
of the preceding night.
"Have you met Tony?" asked Frank, with a chuckle of amusement.
"No. You see, he's a junior and I'm only a soph, so we run in
different grooves. What about him, Frank?" asked the other,
"I was sent into Miss Condit's room with a message from Mr.
Wellington, and, of course, I felt a little curious to know how
Tony looked. While I waited for an answer to the note I carried, I
glanced over to where he sat. Would you believe it, he had turned
deliberately around in his seat, so that his back was toward me."
"Then perhaps I did put my mark on him?" suggested Ralph, eagerly.
"Well, now, you certainly did. As I glanced further along I saw a
mirror at the side of the room, and just then discovered that he
was facing it. He turned fiery red when he caught my look, for I
really couldn't keep from grinning, because, as sure as you live,
my boy, our friend Tony is nursing a most beautiful black eye!"
"It serves him right. He had no business to bother me so. I only
struck in self-defense, and everyone is entitled to that
privilege," declared Ralph.
"Well, I should say so," remarked his friend, quickly, "and I hope
you did as well by that sneak of an Asa. But he was wise enough to
stay home to-day. When you get that fellow off his guard you can
catch a weasel asleep."
The ending of the recess brought their conversation to a close,
but after school, Ralph, possessed by a sort of fascination to
behold his work, haunted the campus until Tony appeared,
surrounded by several of his set.
The two rivals met face to face at the exit of the grounds. Tony
glared at the author of his woes, and his two chums made
threatening gestures; but, of course, they did not dare place a
finger on Ralph at such a time.
But, at any rate, Frank had certainly not understated the facts,
for Tony was the possessor of a fine black eye. Of course, it was
easy for him to invent a plausible excuse for this mishap; he had
run slap against a door when getting up in the dark. And, of
course, nobody believed him, though only a select few understood
the true origin of his damaged optic.
Ralph said never a word; but he could not keep from smiling a bit
as he turned away; and this must have been gall and wormwood to
the other fellow.
An hour later and the chosen eleven, together with the
substitutes, gathered on the field for their last instructions,
and the trial of the signal code. Frank and the coach were
frequently in secret confab, and the others regarded this as
having more or less significance.
"What did your investigation result in, Mr. Willoughby?" Frank was
"Just what we expected. I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt
that the secret signals of Clifford were given to Bellport by some
traitor. A dozen people I interviewed were positive in that
belief. For while there is as yet no proof, they declare that on
no other grounds could the Bellports know just what play was
coming every time the other captain called out his numbers,"
replied the coach, in a firm voice.
"Well, it is what may happen to us, unless we change backward at
the last minute. That would confuse Clifford, and set them on the
wrong track," remarked Frank.
"Just so, and the advantage would be with us. If they can down you
boys squarely and fairly, I'll be the last one to knock, but this
thing of trickery makes me angry. Because they feel that they were
fooled by Bellport is no reason they should want to pass it along,
and defeat you unfairly. I'm surprised that there is no clean-minded
fellow on their team who will positively refuse to take advantage
of such a mean game."
"If Cuthbert Lee was still on the Bellport team," said Frank, "I'm
sure he'd never have listened to such a thing. It would be just
like him to go to the other side and tell them to change their
signals, as they had been betrayed. He was a lover of clean
"Then I only wish there were more like him, Frank. The trouble is,
too many boys, yes, and young men, too, believe that anything is
fair that promises to bring the advantages to their side. Love of
school is all very good, but it should never step in the way of
honest dealing," observed the Princeton man, soberly.
"Then we'll go on with the signals as they have been used?" asked
"To-day, yes, but in the morning we'll get the boys together
early, and change the whole order, so that things mean just the
opposite of what they are now. You get my meaning, don't you,
"Yes, and think it a capital idea. I've always been told that the
truly wise man is he who grapples with adversities, and makes them
work to his advantage. And that is what you propose to do now.
Watch Lanky; he's up to some mischief or other. I can tell it in
his actions. There he goes after the ball that he purposely kicked
into those bushes, I believe."
"Well, he's got it all right, and is calling to Substitute Buster
that it's up to him to try for a field goal," commented the coach,
smiling. "Yes; notice, however, that Lanky makes no effort to
hold the ball for the kick, but has set it there on the ground,"
continued Frank, who knew the joking propensities of his chum so
well that he could quickly guess when the other had any lark
"I suppose Lanky doesn't want to take chances of a bad kick, and,
considering how near the game is, you can hardly blame him.
Perhaps he's had some experience with Buster's kicking before.
There he goes now!"
"Look at Lanky, sir, with his fingers in his ears!"
Hardly had Frank spoken when Buster, swooping down, with all sail
set, on the inoffensive oval, brought his right foot against the
ball with a tremendous effort. The result was certainly
astonishing, for there was a sudden heavy detonation, and the
football arose about ten feet, in a sadly flattened condition,
while the kicker sat down heavily on the ground, looking dazed.
Lanky had substituted some cleverly constructed gas balloon,
placed in an old cover, for the genuine article, having previously
hidden the fraudulent contraption in those bushes until the chance
came to utilize the same.
There was a brief silence, and then a shout went up from the husky
band of players, who caught on to the joke. All but the dazed
Buster, who, still sitting there and gaping at the seeming remains
of a once fine oval football, shook his head and turned
appealingly toward the coach, called out:
"Say, that wasn't my fault, Mr. Willoughby. Now, who pays for that
ball, anyhow?" which remark brought out renewed shrieks from the
others, some of whom fairly fell over with the violence of their
When the joke was explained to the fat boy, of course he laughed
heartily, for his nature could not take offense at anything.
Then the work began in earnest. The efficient coach drilled the
players in all the various plays that were apt to come up during
the course of the game. He expressed his pleasure at the masterly
way these were carried out.
"I'm satisfied that the changes I made have vastly strengthened
the whole team," he said, as he and Frank came together during a
period of rest, after a fierce foray, in which every player worked
systematically, and really clever passes and runs were made around
imaginary hostile forces.
In other days they had rubbed up against the scrub team, and
practiced all their arts against real foes, but this last practice
was to be in secret. Signal work and the drilling of Ralph and
Bones in their respective positions, must occupy much of the
To keep spectators away from the field, several dozen boys had
volunteered to patrol the neighborhood, completely surrounding the
open. Thus it would seem that there could be no one close enough
to overhear when the signal numbers were deliberately called by
"Still, I'm under the impression that there may be someone hidden
in those bushes, or in a hollow tree, watching our work, and
drinking in all we say. When fellows descend to such low practices
as betraying their schoolmates to the enemy, they become very
crafty. On the whole, it will be better to change the code just
before the game to-morrow," remarked the coach, later on, during
Frank said no more. Secretly, however, he was planning to find
out, if it could be possible, that this idea of Mr. Willoughby had
reason back of it. In other words, he had made up his mind that
when the crowd of players went back to town, he would find some
opportunity to drop behind, and keep watch over that field.
For the third and last time, play was resumed. Again did the coach
follow the carefully arranged maneuvers. Up to the present he had
found it necessary to stop them in the midst of the play to start
afresh, because of some inaccuracy. Not once did this occur now.
"Well, sir, how was that?" asked Frank, as, with disheveled hair
and soiled clothes, he came out of the fracas and sought the side
of the man who knew.
There was hardly any need to ask. Coach Willoughby's bronzed face
was all smiles.
"Fine! I never saw the thing executed better, even by the leading
colleges. Depend on it, my boy, if you and your men do as well as
that to-morrow, and there's no treachery shown, you're going to
mow Clifford down far worse than she suffered at the hands of
Bellport. I congratulate you, every one, for the fine form you
show. It does my heart good to see it. And now, home, lads, and
see to it that you don't overeat to-night, and go to bed at a
reasonable hour. That's all from me, and I feel that my work is
The afternoon had worn away while they strained and labored,
trying for the last time some of the plays by means of which they
hoped to carry the ball into Clifford territory during the coming
Each member of the team felt more or less weary when the coach
declared that they had done enough, and dismissed them for the
"Don't forget the secret directions given for an early morning
meet in the place selected, to go over the changed signals," was
spoken in the ear of every fellow before they started back to
Frank held out behind the rest, pretending to be busy with a
number of things that fell to his lot as captain of the eleven. He
had whispered his intentions to Lanky, and the latter, while
laughing at his fears, promised to keep any of the others from
returning to look for the leader, should they notice his absence.
Watching his chance, Frank dropped behind some bushes. Then,
without wasting any time, he started to crawl back to where he
might have a view of the wooded side of the athletic field.
Perhaps, after all, the fears of the coach had been groundless. He
would spend a short time watching, and then, if nothing developed,
he could hasten home.
At the same time, the thought of how Clifford had been deceived
and beaten by the too free handling of their secret code, gave
Frank an uneasy feeling.
When he had gained a position that would allow him to observe the
ground he deemed most suspicious, he waited for developments.
"What was that?" he asked himself in another minute; for it seemed
to him that he had heard a sharp crack, as of a rotten branch
Then his attention was attracted toward a certain spot, where
something had undoubtedly fallen to the ground. Eagerly he riveted
his eyes on the place, and in this way became aware of the fact
that something was certainly moving up among the branches of the
Then an object came heavily to the ground, rolled over once or
twice, and scrambled half erect. Though some little distance away,
Frank could see that this was no animal, but a human being, a boy
at that, who was rubbing his elbow furiously, as though it had
been smartly tapped in his fall.
No need to put a label on this fellow to signify what his presence
meant. Frank knew that he was looking on a spy, who had been
perched among the thick branches of that pine tree during the
better part of the afternoon, making notes of the signal play of
the Columbia eleven!
And he was now moving off, possessed of information that was of
tremendous value to the Clifford team!
AT THE SINGING SCHOOL
Frank did not hesitate a minute. He believed that it was his duty,
if possible, to overtake the spy, and not only learn his identity,
but in some fashion make him promise not to reveal what he had
seen and heard.
He started as fast as he could, making allowances for the fact
that he did not wish to alarm the fellow too soon. The shades of
evening were not far away, since night comes early in mid-November,
and try as he would, he found it impossible to decide as to
whether the other was someone he knew or a stranger.
As he ran quickly over in his mind the list of those who would
come under the head of suspicion, he put them aside, one after
another. It was certainly not Lef Seller or Bill Klemm; another
look, and he was just as positive that it could not be either Asa
Barnes or Tony Gilpin.
Perhaps, after all, this cunning spy might be some enthusiast from
Clifford, who, believing that his team had suffered through
treachery on the preceding Saturday, when Bellport overwhelmed
them, wished to even matters by picking up Columbia's signals.
"As if two wrongs ever yet made a right," said Frank bitterly, as
he continued to chase after the unknown.
He was gaining rapidly. Still, in order to do so, he had to keep
his eyes fixed for the most part on the moving figure ahead, and
in this way was unable to properly watch his footsteps.
Consequently, it was not at all surprising when he suddenly
stepped on a stick that broke with a sharp twang. And, before he
could dodge behind a tree, the fellow beyond had turned his head.
Frank knew instantly that he was discovered. He had stood
perfectly still, in the hope that he might escape observation; but
when he saw the other take to his heels, he realized that it was
now destined to be a stern chase. So he, too, started to run at
top speed, which meant a hot pace, since Frank was something of a
sprinter on the cinder path.
At least, that turn on the part of the other had told him one
thing--it was no Columbia fellow who had played this miserable
trick upon the football squad; so undoubtedly he must belong in
Despite the efforts of the school authorities, there was always
more or less laying of wagers on these games. Driven away from the
racetracks by recent strict State legislation, it seemed that
those who made books were seeking all manner of sports, in order
to carry on their games of chance.
So Frank consoled himself in the belief that this might be some
agent of these gamesters, rather than a Clifford schoolboy
intending to take a mean advantage of the rival team.
He was outrunning the fugitive, and it looked as though, if the
chase were continued five minutes more, Frank was sure to overtake
Then the road leading north toward the river was reached. To
Frank's disgust, he saw the other drag a bicycle out of some
bushes, and, while he made a swift rush, hoping to yet come upon
the fellow before he got away, it was only to see his intended
quarry spin off along the road.
Frank followed a short distance, still cherishing a faint hope
that something might happen to upset the other, but gradually the
figure of the fleeing spy began to vanish, and he had to give it
The last he heard from the fellow was a sharp howl of derision.
Evidently his sudden coming on the scene had given the coward a
great scare, and he was now rejoicing over his narrow escape.
"Too bad that he got away," thought Frank, as he started across a
field to take a short-cut that would save him considerable in his
walk home. "I don't even know who he is. But, at any rate, this
settles the question of signals. We wouldn't dare use the old ones
He made direct for the home of Buster Billings, where Coach
Willoughby was stopping, he being an old friend of the family.
"Hello, how did you make out?" was the way he greeted Frank when
the football captain was ushered into his room, where he was
dressing for dinner.
"You guessed right, sir," answered Frank, gloomily.
"Then there _was_ a spy around to pick up our signals?" asked
the coach, smiling.
"He was hidden up in that big dense pine tree, and I guess he
could see everything we did, as well as hear my signals. It's a
shame that we have to go up against such trickery as that, sir,"
declared Frank, warmly.
"That's all right. Remember what we concluded would come out of
this thing. If those Clifford players are small enough to take
advantage of this find, let them, that's all. We'll fix it so that
they'll make some tremendous blunders before they decide that
honesty is the best policy. But I'm glad you found out. Now, tell
me all about it, Frank," and the coach put both hands on the
shoulders of the young athlete, in whom he had taken great
Frank made a wry face.
"There isn't much to tell. No _veni, vidi, vici,_ about this,
for, while I came, and saw, I didn't conquer by a long shot. The
fellow dropped down out of the tree, and made off, with me tagging
behind. Then he discovered me, and ran. I followed suit, and was
rapidly overtaking him, when we reached the road that turns toward
the one along the river bank leading to the Clifford bridge."
"Yes, and then?" continued the coach, expectantly.
"I lost him! He had a wheel hidden in the bushes, and pedaled
away, giving me the laugh as he went out of sight. That's all,
sir," concluded Frank.
"Did you get a square look at the fellow?" inquired Mr.
"Enough to make sure that he didn't belong in Columbia, so far as
I could tell. I guess he came from Clifford, all right, sir."
"Well, it makes little difference, so long as we know the signals
are off. Forewarned is forearmed, they say. Forget all about it,
my boy, and we'll fix matters so that we can profit from our
So Frank went home to clean himself, and eat his supper. The
consolation given by Coach Willoughby did much to cheer him up,
and he managed to put the ugly business out of his mind.
Indeed, he had a host of other things to bother him. The game on
the morrow, of course, meant much to an enthusiast like Frank.
Then, again, there was that strange matter in connection with
Minnie Cuthbert. Frank thought a good deal of Minnie, and they had
been great friends for a long time. To have her cut him dead was
bad enough, but to act as she did toward his sister Helen seemed
"There is something wrong about it," Frank said, as he dressed.
"Minnie isn't the kind of a girl to do such a thing unless she
believes she has a mighty good excuse. Well, I can't do anything
to bridge the gap. It must go on until something happens to bring
about an explanation. Until then it is my policy to simply leave
matters alone, and pay attention to my own affairs."
But when he got to thinking of how Lef Seller had on one other
occasion played a trick that, for a time, made trouble between
Minnie and himself, he shook his head wrath fully, and muttered
threats that boded no good to that prank-lover, should he prove to
be guilty in this present instance.
Helen, being a girl, knew how to disguise her feelings. She seemed
quite herself, and Frank could not help wondering if, after all,
she had cared more for Minnie than she did for Flo Dempsey, with
whom she intended seeing the great game on the morrow.
"Going to the meeting of the glee club to-night, Helen?" he asked,
She looked at him with a smile.
"Why not? I'm just as fond of singing as ever. I hope you don't
mean to stay away for any reason, Frank?" came her quick reply.
That decided Frank. Any hesitation on the part of his sister, and
he meant to remain at home; for, somehow, he felt that he hardly
cared to mingle with the crowd, where Minnie must assuredly be,
since she was one of the leading singers.
"Why, sure. I guess a little relaxation from the strain will do
all of the team good. Some of the other fellows are going to come
in a bunch, with Ralph and Bones."
"What is that for?" asked Helen, who could see from the smile that
crossed his face that there was a reason.
"Oh, it's just like the class spreads, where they want to break
the jollification up by kidnapping the president; some fellows are
after our two new recruits, that's all," he replied.
"But this is different. Why should any Columbia boy want to kidnap
Ralph? It would spoil the game to-morrow, and perhaps defeat our
"And that's just what these fellows would like to see. A case of
sour grapes with them. But we're going to protect our men to the
limit," declared Frank.
"How mean and contemptible of them! They ought to be ashamed of
"Well," said Frank, soothingly, as he saw how the indignant girl
took it to heart in connection with Ralph, "Never mind now, but go
and get your things on. We might as well make a start now. You
know, we don't practice to-night at the school, because they're
fixing the ceiling in the assembly room. It's to be at Dyckman's
"I promised that we would drop around and take Flo with us,"
remarked Helen, with a quick look upward, and a little smile.
"Oh, well, it doesn't matter; that is, it won't take us much out
of our way," returned Frank.
"No, it isn't so far as the Cuthbert's," and with this parting
shot, Helen ran upstairs, leaving Frank to ponder over her
The glee club usually met in the hall at the high school. It was
connected with the educational department, in that the school
authorities encouraged its existence, for the study of music was
along the lines of the ordinary duties of the classes.
Of course, when fifty or more young people come together of an
evening, they are bound to make merry. Consequently there was
always an air of jollity connected with these weekly singing
society meetings throughout the winter months.
Both Bones Shadduck and Ralph West were present. They showed up
with a bunch of others, and secretly Ralph reported to Frank that
they had seen no sign of the enemy while on the way thither.
"But don't let that make you careless," retorted the other, "for
these chaps are as cunning as Indians, who always attack, they
say, just before dawn, when the men on guard are apt to be sleepy.
Watch out, Ralph. We need you too much to have you taking
But the evening passed quickly, with the customary songs and
merriment. Minnie was, of course, present. She had come with
Dottie Warren, and once, when it chanced that she and Frank met
face to face, she looked annoyed because she had to speak.
However, Frank's nod was just as cold as her own.
He sang with even more vim than customary, just to show her that
he was not caring in the least. Still, there were curious eyes
that noted the breach, and more than one group of girls commented
on the fact.
"They've certainly had a falling out," said Emily Dodsworth, the
primp, and she tried to look horrified, even while secretly
pleased, because she was herself very fond of Frank. "Isn't it
dreadful, girls? But then I thought their friendship was too
sudden to last long. Perhaps Frank may understand now that 'old
friends are sure, old ties endure.'"
It was nearly ten o'clock, when the singing school was supposed to
close. Frank found himself wishing that it were over with.
Somehow, he felt very tired, though suspecting that his weariness
might be more of the mind than the body. Still, with that great
game to be won on the morrow, he believed that he ought to get
between the sheets as soon as possible now.
It was just at this time he saw Lanky Wallace heading toward him.
Lanky was not in the least a diplomat. Whenever he had anything
worrying him, the fact seemed to stick out all over his face,
bringing wrinkles to his usually placid brow.
It was so now. Immediately Frank began to scent trouble, though,
for the life of him, he could not understand just how it could
come while the boys were still at the singing school. Surely, none
of those schemers would dare sneak into the hall and kidnap either
of the two new recruits.
He hastily glanced around and heaved a sigh of relief when his
eyes fell on the figure of Ralph close by, as he chatted with
Helen and Flo. At least it could not be him.
"What's ailing you, Lanky?" he demanded, as the other rushed up to
"It's Bones--they can't find him anywhere, and I guess he's been
carried off by some of those disgruntled chaps!" exclaimed the
other, with a look of dismay.
THE ABDUCTION OF "BONES"
"What's that?" demanded Buster Billings, who happened to be
"Goodness, they are saying poor Bones Shadduck has been
kidnapped!" exclaimed a shuddering girl, and the news was flashed
all through the several groups.
The singing for the evening was done. The Columbia High School
Glee Club had never before been so well attended. Time was when it
consisted of a baker's dozen of students, but there were an
unusually large number of good voices in the various classes this
Frank was, of course, much worried by the news.
"Are you sure, Lanky? Perhaps he's just stepped out to saunter
around with one of the girls, like some of the others have done,"
"Well, we thought of that, and hunted high and low. Why, even
Allie Sawyer, who generally takes up so much of his time, hasn't
seen him for ten minutes."
"So long as that?" answered Frank, with a smile; "but we must get
busy, and learn if any one saw Bones go out."
"I did!" spoke up a girl just then.
"When was this?" asked Frank, turning on her quickly.
"Not more than seven or eight minutes ago. I was standing in the
doorway, and had to move aside for him. And he spoke to me, too,"
came the reply. "And what did he say?" continued the other.
"Why, you know Bones has a dog?"
"Yes, a bulldog named Kaiser."
"He brought him along to the hall to-night," continued the girl.
"That's a fact, Frank; for the ugly brute came near taking a hunk
out of my leg when, by the merest chance in the world, I happened
to rub up against him!" declared Tom Budd, the boy gymnast, who
was constantly doing stunts, as though possessed of an insatiable
desire to stand on his head, walk on his hands, or throw
"The dog was howling, oh, so mournfully," continued the girl. "I
heard him, and it really got on my nerves. Well, I guess it acted
the same way with Bones, for he said that he was going out and
remonstrate with Kaiser."
Frank and Lanky exchanged glances.
"Told you so!" declared the latter, triumphantly.
"Well, it certainly looks as though there might be something in
it. Bones must have forgotten the warning, in his sudden desire to
stop the howling of the dog. He went out, and as he hasn't come
back, we'd better be looking after him. Come along, some of you
fellows. If they've carried him off, it's up to us to rescue our
There was an immediate rush made for the door of the hall.
Dyckman's was situated just on the outskirts of the town. It had
once been some sort of church, and was now used for a variety of
purposes connected with the life of the community, from political
meetings to dancing classes.
As the stream of boys poured out of the building, the howling of
the bulldog nearby became more furious than ever. It immediately
attracted the attention of the observant Frank.
"Hark!" he said, holding up his hand to indicate that silence
would be necessary if they hoped to succeed in accomplishing
anything worth while.
"What is it?" demanded Lanky, eagerly; "do you see Bones, or did
you hear him shout for help?"
"Neither. I was thinking of his dog," was the reply.
"What of old Kaiser, Frank? How does he come in this game?" asked
"You can tell from the way he's acting that Bones has never been
near him. More than that, I believe the smart dog knows that
something has happened to his master, for he's just wild to get
free!" declared Frank.
"Sure as you live! Just listen to him growl and bark. I never
heard a bulldog do that before!" cried Ralph.
"Oh, Kaiser is only a half-breed mongrel, but looks like a full-blooded
bull. But an idea just occurred to me, fellows."
"Then let's have it, Frank. We're short of ideas at present, just
as we are of a bully good football player needed in to-morrow's
game. What is it?" asked Molly Manners, unduly excited by these
"Perhaps the dog might lead us to where Bones is!" said Frank.
"Say, now, that's just a crackerjack suggestion. Of course, he
will, if someone could only hold him in by his leash!" exclaimed
Lanky, with the light of anticipation shining on his face.
"Come on, let's try it!" shouted another fellow.
"But who's going to unfasten Kaiser, and hold him?" asked Frank,
always practical, even at such moments as this.
"Here's Buster, he knows the dog better than anyone else," said
Jack Eastwick, pushing the fat boy forward.
"Oh, yes, I've had an intimate acquaintance with him. He's tasted
of me three different times," declared the unwilling candidate for
"Still, he knows you?" said Jack, in a wheedling voice.