Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days/Chapter 15
ON THE GRIDIRON
When the exercises for the day were over, Dick sought out Captain Handlee, and inquired how he liked the wall-scaling.
"Fine! Fine!" exclaimed the veteran. "We never had such practice when I was in the army, but we did pretty near the same in real life. I remember one occasion at Chancellorsville—"
"Now Captain Handlee," interrupted Major Webster. who had constituted himself host to the veteran, "you keep all such stories for me. If you get telling them to the cadets, first thing I know I'll have to be providing big brick walls for them to scale."
He led the veteran away, the aged captain bidding good-bye to Dick.
"I hope you'll be successful on your trip," said the young millionaire.
"I hope so, too, Dick, for I miss my son more and more as I grow older."
In spite of the good record he made in the drills, at artillery practice and in his class, Dick found as the weeks went by, that he was making no progress in becoming popular with the main body of students at Kentfield. He had a few chums among the freshmen, and of course was on speaking terms with all the others, but aside from Paul Drew, his roommate, he had no close friends. This state of affairs made him feel sad, for at home he had been the most popular lad in town.
"I'm not succeeding as I thought I would," he said to himself, one day. "I guess I'll have to put my plan into operation. But perhaps I'd better wait a while yet. I'll give this way a fair show."
As fall advanced there began to be talk about forming the football eleven. A number of new players were needed, because some of the best had graduated the previous year.
"I hope I can make the team," said Dick to Paul one evening during their study period. "I used to be considered a good player at home."
"I don't see why you can't get on. Fortunately Dutton has nothing to say about who shall play, though he's considered one of the team's supporters and backers."
"Still he may influence Captain Rutledge. I hear they are going to pick candidates this week."
"Yes, I heard Harry Hale, the coach, talking about it. I hope you make the eleven, Dick."
It was the following day, when Dick was out in the field, with some other cadets of his class, getting instruction in survey work, that he overheard something which made him feel more than ever like giving up the fight against his handicap. He was standing near a thick hedge, holding the scale rod, while another cadet was reading it through the instrument, when he heard voices behind the shrubbery.
"Looks to me like Hamilton would make a good player," he caught, and he knew that Coach Hale was speaking.
"You're right," said Captain Rutledge. "He's got the right build, and I hear he played at home."
"Aw, you don't want him on the team," expostulated a voice which Dick knew at once belonged to Captain Dutton.
"Why not?" asked the coach, in some surprise.
"Well, none of the other fellows like him. You wouldn't get good team work if he played."
"Are you sure?" asked Captain Rutledge.
"Sure. He's not popular."
"What's the matter with him?"
"Well, he's got too much money, and he's always trying to make it known. He gives himself as many airs as if he came of an old family."
This was an unjust accusation, but the coach and captain did not know it, as they were upperclass cadets, and did not mingle much with the freshmen.
"Well, we won't want to get an unpopular fellow on the eleven," said the coach, dubiously.
"No, indeed," agreed the captain. "Still, we need good players. Suppose we give him a trial?"
"You'll be sorry if you do," Dutton assured them.
Dick longed to drop the rod, leap over the hedge and give a well-deserved threshing to Button, but he knew he would lose more than he would gain. He was brought quickly out of his fit of righteous anger by the sharp command of the officer in charge of the surveying party.
"Plumb east there! Hamilton!" was the cry, and Dick saw that he had allowed the rod to slant too much. He straightened it, and, glancing at the hedge saw the three cadets who had been talking, moving away. But, before they got out of earshot Dick heard Dutton say:
"I wouldn't put him on the team, if I were you, for I don't think he'll be here long."
"Why not? Doesn't he like it?" asked Captain Rutledge.
"Oh, I guess he likes it all right, but we don't like him. I shouldn't wonder but what something would happen to make him leave," and Dutton laughed sarcastically.
"I guess I'd better be on my guard," thought Dick as he moved the rod to another place, in obedience to the instructions from the cadet at the instrument.
A few days after this, a notice was posted on the bulletin board in the gymnasium, telling all candidates for the football team to report on the gridiron that afternoon, as selections for the regular and scrub teams would be made. Members of the scrub would act as substitutes on the regular.
"Here's where I get my chance," said Dick to Paul.
"Well, I hope you make the regular team," replied his roommate, as the young millionaire went to submit himself for examination.
Coach Hale, Captain Rutledge, and a number of the former players were on hand, as was Dutton, and some of his cronies. All the candidates were looked over, sized up physically, and put through a course of "sprouts" in running, leaping, and tackling. Then their football history was inquired into.
"I guess you'll do, Hamilton," said the coach, and Dick was delighted.
A moment later, however, he saw his hopes dashed to the ground. Dutton called Harry Hale over to him, whispered a bit, and then Captain Rutledge joined them.
"You'll be on the scrub, Hamilton," said Hale, a little later. "You'll probably have a chance to play in several games, however, for I like your form. You've got to be regular at practice however."
Though much disappointed, Dick vowed to do his best at practice. This was started a few days later, and, when the regular team lined up against the substitutes, Dick resolved that they would make no gains through him, for he was playing at left guard, though he preferred being back of the line.
"Well, how are we making out," Dick overheard Captain Rutledge asking the coach, one afternoon, following some hard scrimmages.
"Pretty good. That Hamilton is like a brick wall, though. We can't gain a foot through him. I wish we had him on the regular."
"Well, you know what Dutton said."
"Yes, I know, but I don't believe all Dutton says. He's got queer notions. I think Hamilton is every bit as good as he is. Besides, Dutton doesn't play football."
"I know it, but he has lots of influence."
Dick fully subscribed to this, for he knew it was due to Dutton that he was on the scrub instead of on the regular team. But he resolved to have patience.
As Dick walked off the gridiron, following the practice, he was met, before he reached his barracks, by Grit, who had been let out of his kennel in the stables.
"Hello, Grit old fellow!" exclaimed Dick, and the dog nearly dislocated his stump of a tail, so excited was he. Since rejoining his master he had picked up wonderfully. "I've got you for a friend, even if I haven't many others," said Dick, as he bent over to fondle the dog. As he did so he saw some marks on the animal's smooth, satin-like coat, that made him start. "Grit, you've been fighting!" he exclaimed. "How did that happen?" He knew there were no other dogs near the academy with whom his pet would quarrel. He asked the stableman about it.
"Sure Grit's been in a fight," replied one of the hostlers. "I thought you matched him in a scrap wid a dorg in town. Grit won, anyhow. It was a couple a' nights ago."
"Matched him in a fight? Why, did some one—some of the cadets take Grit to town, and let him fight?"
"Thot's what they done, Muster Hamilton, an' they won a pot of money on him too, I understand."
"Who took him? asked Dick, trying to speak calmly.
"Why, uts no secret. Muster Dutton an' Muster Stiver tuck him one night. Ut was a foin foight, I heard 'em say."
Dick started away, after chaining Grit up, a set look on his face.
"I'll have it out with Dutton," he said.