The Game by Wire
THE GAME BY WIRE
By Arthur Stanwood Pier
" IF you have any explanation to offer, you may make it to me on the dock."
So the angry letter concluded; and in consequence John Stanley journeyed for two days eastward. He had several consoling thoughts; one was that, however the affair was adjusted, he might now see the Yale-Harvard football game at New Haven.
He arrived in Boston on Wednesday evening; Mr. Prentice's steamer was due on Thursday. Now, although Stanley came from the West and was a Yale man, he knew his way round Boston; and after dining he betook himself up Beacon Street to Mr. Prentice's house. While he waited in the hall he heard from above Lucy Prentice's clear voice reading aloud as follows: "At left end is Prentice, who though new to 'Varsity football this year, and opposed by perhaps the strongest player in the Yale line, is expected to give a good account of himself. His speed in getting down under kicks and his——"
The reading ceased; a moment later John Stanley was ascending the stairs to the library. There, standing by a table expectantly, was Lucy Prentice alone; she came forward with a little start of nervous eagerness, with a jubilant welcome shining in her face.
"John Stanley! I had no idea you were in town! How splendid! Mamma's so sorry not to see you, but she's not very well—I was reading to her."
"About young Prentice—yes, I heard you."
"About him and the man that plays opposite him. Tell me—what does your brother say? You'll go down to the game with us—we have a special car. It will be full of Harvard people; and it will be perfectly fine to have one lone Eli. We will all have such fun jollying you."
"Except on the trip back," observed Stanley. "Then it will be my turn."
She scoffed at the confidence of Yale men; he listened without resentment. In that yellow dress, with her dark beauty, she was quite enrapturing; and he enjoyed her prattle. He had made a note of her nervous, eager start toward him. Perhaps it was one of the little tricks that made her so popular with men; but perhaps it had in this instance a special genuineness. Her talk flowed on, easily, happily.
"And isn't it funny," she was saying, "to think that my Tom doesn't know your Ted at all!"
"They will know each other pretty well after Saturday," he answered.
"Does your Ted slug?"
"Does your Tom hold in the line?"
"Oh, you must—you must come with us in our car!" she exclaimed. "I so want to exhibit you to my Harvard friends."
"As a—as a possession?" he ventured.
"As my dearest enemy," she answered.
"Well—even that tempts me. But I'm not sure."
"Oh, business may prevent. I'm in Boston on business."
"Then it's all right. Father wouldn't miss this game for anything; and he wouldn't have you miss it."
"When will his steamer get in to-morrow?"
"Not till late in the afternoon—and perhaps not until Friday morning. They've had fog and a rough passage."
"A combination which is likely to make one irritable," said Stanley meditatively.
"Oh! Then things haven't been going well?"
"Not very," he admitted.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" She looked at him with such compassion that he exclaimed:
"I—of course I wanted to make good in this job especially; it's rather a disappointment. But however it comes out, I'm not beaten; I'm really not, you know. I want you to understand that."
"Not yet, of course—not till Saturday, she answered lightly. "And Saturday we'll count on you in our special car."
"I'd rather leave it open until I've talked with your father. To be frank—he may prefer not to see me in your special car."
"Dear me!" She sighed. But she did not press him for any further confidences. She returned to the subject, however, late in the evening when he was taking his departure.
"If it's such a deadly feud, perhaps we'll never meet again—unless you come to luncheon to-morrow? Mamma would be sorry to miss you entirely."
So he came to luncheon the next day. It was blowing a gale; resort to the telephone elicited from the Cunard office the information that the Bohemia would not arrive before Friday night; a wireless to the station on Cape Cod had announced some mishap to her engines.
"Well," said Lucy Prentice, "father is making pretty close connections."
"Oh, I hope," cried Mrs. Prentice, "that nothing more will happen to detain him! This is Tom's last year at Harvard, Mr. Stanley, and Mr. Prentice regards Tom's playing in this Yale game as the greatest event of his own life; he wouldn't miss it for worlds. And I don't know how I could endure it myself if Mr. Prentice could not be there; it makes me quite faint whenever I think of it."
"You will have my strong young shoulder to lean on," said Lucy. "But the old boat will get in on time; don't worry."
When late in the afternoon he was taking his leave, John Stanley suggested to Lucy that, as they might never see each other again after Friday, they celebrate this possibly last evening by going to the theatre. He generously included Mrs. Prentice in the invitation. Lucy thought nothing could be more agreeable. Mrs. Prentice decided that she did not care to go; but that Lucy was old enough to go alone with a young man if she chose to. And she suggested that Mr. Stanley come to dinner.
When at the end of a cheerful little play they emerged from the theatre rain was falling. Therefore, during the drive home they discussed not the play but the weather probabilities for Saturday, and the comparative merits of the two teams on wet grounds. When they reached the house Stanley accepted an invitation to come in for supper. He was led into talking about Western cities as places to live in. He believed that every woman ought to live for a while in a Western city. "Rather than Boston?" Lucy suggested doubtfully. "Oh! distinctly rather than Boston." She looked as if—though his convictions were different from hers—she liked to have him so emphatic.
Into his leave-taking he infused a note of melancholy. "We'll probably meet tomorrow night on the dock," she reminded him. "And if not there—Saturday in our special car." He admitted the possibilities, but indicated his preference for a touching farewell, in case— He left it vague.
It rained all night; all Friday until three o'clock in the afternoon—a steady, still, warm rain. Then the rain ceased in a drizzle, and a fog steamed up from the earth and met another fog shutting down from the sky.
Stanley had tried to spend a profitable morning. He had visited the Art Museum and the Public Library, and, finally, Harvard College. At this last institution, however, instead of inspecting in a reverent spirit the glass flowers and other improving objects, he sought out certain undergraduates and—like a typical Yale man—goaded them into betting on their team. At two o'clock he returned to Boston, through the weltering fog. From the Touraine he telephoned to the Cunard wharf; yes, the Bohemia had arrived at noon off Boston Light and had anchored to await high tide— which would be at six o'clock. But if the fog did not lift before seven o'clock she would not dock until Saturday morning.
With sudden concern Stanley left the telephone booth and gazed out of the window. The fog was thicker than ever; the lights in the windows across the street made a golden blur, revealing nothing; cabs and wagons emerged suddenly from nothingness, and were as suddenly consumed by mist. Stanley returned to the telephone. Miss Prentice was at home; Miss Prentice, in fact, answered his call.
Yes, she had telephoned to the wharf; wasn't it disgusting? Of course the fog wouldn't lift. She felt awfully sorry for her father; he had sailed especially to see Tom play. And her mother was almost prostrated with sympathy and disappointment. "But there's one good thing, any way," she added. "Now you can join us in our special car."
"Oh, but I'm worse off than ever," said Stanley. "Your father told me to meet him on the dock."
"Don't be any silly Casabianca," urged Lucy. "You'll see him to-morrow night—and that will do just as well as the morning."
"But it won't. I must get back and bid on some contracts Monday. And I can just do it by leaving New York to-morrow night; I couldn't do it by leaving Boston."
"Dear me! Well—if papa's ship doesn't get in, why don't you come round to dinner this evening and cheer us up?"
"Delighted—especially as it may be the last chance I shall ever have——"
"Oh, yes. We must never forget that. We'll expect you at seven—if papa's ship doesn't come in."
The Bohemia did not dock that night. And again it was after midnight when John Stanley left the Prentices' house. He bore affectionate messages from wife and daughter for the husband and father; he had Mr. Prentice's ticket for the football game in his pocket, for the chance still remained that the boat might dock early enough in the morning to permit an enthusiastic parent to catch a train for New Haven.
Stanley rose at five; by six he was at the dock. The fog had not yet lifted; the minutes and hours slipped by; and at last Stanley gave up hope. Then suddenly at ten minutes past nine the harbor and its islands emerged and soon lay clear and shining, and the Bohemia was steaming up from quarantine.
Mr. Prentice was the first passenger off the boat. He ran into the customs room; Stanley pursued him.
"If you're lucky, you can just get the ten o'clock," Stanley said, trotting up by his side. "The last special left at nine. Here's your ticket to the game."
"Thanks." Mr. Prentice glanced at Stanley and seized the ticket. "I've fixed it with the inspector—passed through without my trunks." He went down the steps three at a time, with Stanley at his heels. "South Terminal," he said to a cabman. "Five dollars extra if I catch the ten o'clock."
Stanley climbed in beside his chief, and the cabman started the horse on a run.
"So you're going, too?" said Mr. Prentice.
"Yes. It's the only chance I'll have to explain to you. I must leave New York to-night if I'm to put in a bid on those Fryeville contracts."
"Oh, very well. Twelve minutes to ten. We'll never do it."
"Just a chance," said Stanley. "If we do make it—and the train's on time—we'll miss only the first twenty minutes of the game."
They swept down to the East Boston ferry just to see the gates closed—just to see the ferry-boat slide out from the slip.
"Damn!" said Mr. Prentice. "That does us." He took off his hat and thumped the brim of it angrily upon his knee. "I have a son playing in that game to-day; I've come all the way from Europe to see him play."
"It's hard luck," said Stanley. He made no allusion to his own disappointment. "But we may get the train after all—if it's late in starting."
They reached the station at ten minutes past ten; the train had gone.
"You can take me back to the dock," Mr. Prentice said to the driver. "After I have got my luggage through the customs, I will see you, Mr. Stanley, at my office."
"It might be better," said Stanley, "if you would let me talk with you now. For about those contracts—I ought to leave this afternoon if we're to bid for them. I could explain matters to you, Mr. Prentice, while we're driving back."
"Oh, very well; if it's as easy as all that."
"I understood," he said, "when I was made Superintendent of the Tristate Section, that I was to get the business—that this was more important, to begin with, than to show profits."
"But it was never intimated to you that you were to sacrifice profits to undertake heedless, reckless, extravagant contracts. You were to get all the business possible regardless of profits—but not regardless of loss."
"With two competing companies against us, I did the closest figuring I could," Stanley replied. "If we had had normally good luck, we'd have come out about even. But after getting the contract, we were delayed in our work by two weeks of rain, and by having to wait for sand shipments. Because of these delays we ran behind—but it wasn't because I had been reckless in my figuring."
"That may all be true—but it's your business, when you find unexpected expense developing in one direction, to economize in another—and bring the company through without loss. You've had charge of three big jobs since you were made superintendent; every one of them has stood us a big loss. I don't deny that there's been some hard luck about it—but what I want—what I mean to have—is a superintendent with ingenuity enough to cope with hard luck."
"You mean by—evading the specifications?"
"I mean nothing in particular. I do not inquire into the methods by which ingenuity is applied—but what I want, what I must have, is ingenuity—resourcefulness— and you haven't it. I happen to know that the superintendent of the Etna Company has made big profits for his concern under conditions similar to yours."
"Yes," said Stanley. "He scamped on the concrete and filled up with sand and gravel beyond what the terms of the contract called for. His work will need to be done over again within a year. I don't know any other way of coming out even when bids are low and luck is against you, Mr. Prentice."
"I don't know what ways there may be, and I don't care to know," replied Mr. Prentice irascibly. "But as long as they exist and there are men of ingenuity who can operate our plant at a profit instead of at a loss, my company will avail itself of those men."
"I only do honest work," said Stanley.
"Young man, that observation is offensive. If the only resources open to your ingenuity are dishonest, don't arrogate to yourself all the ingenuity there is in the paving business. Other men may accomplish better results than you by methods that are perfectly legitimate. Since your feeling is what it is, perhaps you feel that you had better separate yourself from the service of the company."
"Perhaps I had." Stanley drew out of his pocket some papers. "I left everything in good shape; Holmes understands all about the matters in the office. I've drawn up a statement for you of the situation; here it is. And here are all the data that will be needed in bidding for the Fryeville contracts."
Mr. Prentice took the papers and thrust them into his pocket.
"I wish you success, Mr. Stanley, in your next venture."
"Thank you." Stanley called to the driver, and the cab stopped. "Good-by, sir."
Stanley alighted, touched his hat, and walked away.
He had kept control of himself; now, however, his lips tightened angrily, and he walked on without noticing where his steps were leading him. He had foreseen that this outcome was possible, and had calmly prepared for it; the accurate notes which he had turned over to Mr. Prentice had been made for this very contingency. Yet all the while he had never really believed it could happen. Dismissed because he would not be dishonest! "It's the only way of looking at it—the only way," he insisted to himself as he hurried blindly along. And to think that Mr. Prentice was that kind of a man!
There wasn't a gleam of light anywhere. He had sacrificed, all for nothing, his chance of going to the game with Lucy—of seeing the game. And it was the last year that Ted would ever play; and next to his mother and Lucy he admired Ted more than anyone in the world; if he had had nothing else to consider, he would have spent his last cent to see Ted play. And Ted would think he was there, and would be looking for him in the stand, and after the game.
On the ferry-boat John Stanley leaned with both elbows on the rail and stared down into the water with a woebegone face.
Mr. Prentice's irritation grew. In his painstaking fashion, he had made out a complete inventory of his purchases abroad and handed it to the customs officer with his declaration. It was a modest list, reaching a total, as he had laboriously computed, of $347.53. With this in hand the inspector was going methodically through all Mr. Prentice's possessions. Meanwhile, Mr. Prentice sat on a trunk and watched him with a hard, disgusted eye. "Young man," he barked suddenly, so that the inspector spun about startled, "you're the second person to-day that's taken me for a crook."
"Oh, no, sir," the inspector replied. "Only it often happens that the persons who hand in itemized lists are the very ones that are hoping to conceal things of value and—well, I haven't had much to do this morning——"
"It must be a fascinating recreation," observed Mr. Prentice. "I have handed in my statement and taken my oath that it is correct, but there is no reason for you to believe that I am animated by fear of God, reverence for truth, respect for law, or any feeling of patriotism whatever. As I say, you are the second person to-day who has taken me for a crook."
The inspector flushed angrily. Then, after a brief survey of Mr. Prentice's face, his indignation disappeared in a grin.
"If you looked any different from what you do and talked like that," he said, "I'd think you were a crook, sure. But I guess I have some sense. I won't annoy you any more."
He closed the trunk and affixed his stamp to the label.
"This way, sir; and they'll figure out the duty."
Mr. Prentice followed him to the assessor's window, paid the fifty-three dollars demanded, and then turned to the inspector.
"I lost my temper; I'm obliged to you for your courtesy," he said. "I like men that can see straight when they're mad. I can't do it myself."
He swung round and marched away.
Yes; that was the trouble with young Stanley—he couldn't see straight when he was mad. If he had had a grain of common sense he'd have known better than to take a few peevish and perverse utterances so literally. Driving home, Mr. Prentice began to heap reproaches upon himself, however, rather than upon Stanley. He had been irritated by Stanley's poor showing as superintendent, and had thought a good scare and scolding would be beneficial. But he had meant to turn a mild, indulgent ear to the young man after Stanley had been sufficiently cowed. Instead, he had let himself be cornered unpleasantly, and then, with the devil of wrong-headedness and pride in command, he had been unable to extricate himself from a false position. And the poor young thing felt he had been dismissed because he wouldn't stoop to dishonesty! It would have been ludicrous had it not been so annoying, so unjust. That upon which Mr. Prentice prided himself was his integrity in all business dealings.
"I suppose I'll have to get hold of that young man again and smooth things out," he grumbled to himself. "Confound it, I don't know where he's stopping—or where he'll go when he leaves Boston."
At home Mr. Prentice found affectionate, commiserating notes from his wife and daughter—a pathetic welcome for the returned traveller. He wandered about the house, poking into the different rooms and renewing in this desultory way the feeling of being at home again. Then he went to his office, where he was reminded of the Fryeville contract and the necessity of telegraphing instructions to Holmes. He remembered the papers which Stanley had given him; they proved to be the complete statement of the Fryeville specifications and requirements, the complete figuring to meet them—figuring which, as Mr. Prentice, after long study, recognized, was of the closest, most expert kind.
Mr. Prentice despatched a long telegram to Holmes, the assistant superintendent of the Tristate Paving Company. In it he incorporated all the items which Stanley had left with him, and gave orders to bid for the Fryeville contract. He added that Stanley's return was delayed for a few days.
Then he began telephoning round to the hotels. He learned that John Stanley had been stopping at the Touraine, but that within an hour he had paid his bill and departed.
Stanley had gone to the station, meaning to take the first train for New Haven. He could not see the game, but he would at least be on hand to share his brother's rejoicing or sorrow—shake his hand or hold it. Then it occurred to him that if he took this train he would get no news of the game until it was all over. And he remembered reading in the morning newspaper that the plays were to be reproduced by wire at Mechanics Hall. So he decided to wait over for the returns; he could still get to New Haven in time for any jollification.
The game was to begin at two; at a quarter before the hour Stanley entered Mechanics Hall.
This is a vast and unbeautiful auditorium. For the occasion it had been dressed up in a manner that implied patriotism on the part of the management. The roof displayed a red, white, and blue vertebrate appearance; one long, broad streamer of tricolored bunting extended like a backbone down the middle of the roof and threw out on either side ribs of similar material. Also bunting framed the three pictures at the back of the stage—pictures of "The Boston Tea Party," "Eliza Escaping Over the Ice," and "John Elliot Preaching to the Indians." At the front of the stage was the apparatus for recording the progress of the game—a blackboard marked out like a football field, with an imitation football suspended over it by a wire along which it could be moved at will. A telegraph operator was busy with his instrument, and near him stood a large man in a frock-coat. The front half of the auditorium was closely filled with people; there was a sprinkling farther back and in the gallery, and the crowd was flowing in faster and faster and spreading over the floor. Stanley secured a seat near the aisle. He looked round. People were standing up beckoning to friends, pretty girls were nodding and smiling across distant spaces, middle-aged and elderly gentlemen and small schoolboys filed down the aisles and off right and left to seats; also many persons whose academic associations were obviously remote, whose cigars pointed at angles from their mouths, and whose hats were canted at angles on their heads. Among them all Stanley saw no familiar face.
The large man in the frock-coat, who had been bending over the telegraph operator, advanced to the edge of the platform.
"There is no wind," he proclaimed in a truly stentorian voice.
This momentous announcement was received with applause. Stanley began to feel excited—he began to feel very much as if he were actually in the New Haven stand waiting for the game to begin.
The man in the frock-coat advanced again.
"The Harvard team has just trotted on the field."
There was then great applause—clapping of hands and an inarticulate loud bawl from the middle-aged and elderly gentlemen, the small schoolboys, and the pretty girls.
Stanley felt that his part this afternoon would indeed be lonely and conspicuous.
"The Yale eleven has just trotted on the field."
"A-ay!" shouted Stanley, clapping his hands; but to his surprise he was not alone in this demonstration—there were noisy outbreaks in different parts of the hall. "Brek-ek, Koax, Yale. Siss boom oh, rah, Yale!" shouted some one behind him. Stanley turned and saw with indignation that the deliverer of this mutilated cheer was an unshaven, red-nosed person with an Irish mouth, a soiled collar, and a debilitated silk hat. With him a coterie of younger but equally unattractive "sports" stamped and whistled their jubilation. Stanley surveyed them with disgust. In New Haven it had always seemed perfectly reasonable for the muckers to cheer for Harvard; it was offensive to find that in Boston the muckers cheered for Yale.
Then he caught sight of Mr. Prentice advancing down the aisle, casting about for a seat. And instantly he faced round toward the stage.
Someone, he was aware, passed in and took a seat behind him.
"The two captains are talking with the referee. The referee flips a coin."
There was a moment's silence, during which the announcer bent over the telegraph operator. Then he straightened up.
"The two elevens are going to their places. It is Yale's ball."
Stanley had an instant mental picture of his brother Ted, out on the right end of the line, left foot advanced, bending forward on tiptoe for the start; Stanley's hands were cold with excitement, and he felt the nervous tremor that he used to feel at this moment when he was actually present at the play.
"Thompson kicks for Yale to Harvard's fifteen-yard line; Williams catches and runs the ball back to Harvard's thirty-five-yard line."
The announcer's assistant pulled a string and the ball hopped to position.
"Hinchman gains two yards through centre."
"Williams tries Yale's right end, but is thrown by Stanley for a loss of three yards."
"A-ay!" shrieked Stanley, beating his hands together.
"Well, well, well!" shouted triumphantly one of the Yale sympathizers in the rear. The tone was so offensive that Stanley turned his head—and saw Mr. Prentice in the row behind, smiling at him.
Mr. Prentice leaned forward. "We cheer for opposite sides."
"Yes," said Stanley. He again faced round to the stage.
"Hammond drops back to kick."
"Hammond kicks to Baird on Yale's thirty-yard line, and Baird is tackled by Prentice and thrown in his tracks."
Harvard cheered; Mr. Prentice let out a great bellow and pounded on the floor with his cane. He leaned forward and said to Stanley in a jubilant voice, just as if they were friends, "That's my boy."
Stanley nodded. "I've heard he's good."
"Morris tries Harvard's centre, but does not gain an inch."
Again there was applause from Harvard. "Should have tried right end," Stanley muttered.
There was silence, during which the click of the instrument was audible even to those in the middle of the hall. The announcer, who had been bending over the operator, straightened up.
"With Stanley blocking off for him beautifully, Mercer circles Prentice for fifteen yards."
"A-ay!" shouted Stanley, and elsewhere there rose small cheers. And when these had subsided one of the pseudo-Yale contingent in the background ejaculated, with loud, insolent satisfaction: "Well, well, well! How about it?"
Mr. Prentice leaned forward again.
"I don't like your man Stanley," he said good-naturedly. "I wish he'd leave my boy alone. Any relation of yours?"
"What! And you're not there to see him! Why—why didn't you go?"
"Oh," Stanley said rather bitterly, "the reasons are no longer important."
The remark seemed to have effectively silenced Mr. Prentice.
The next reports recorded small but steady Yale gains. By assaults upon Harvard tackles, which won two or three yards invariably, Yale progressed to Harvard's forty-yard line. Here the Harvard defence stiffened, and on two downs Yale had still five yards to gain.
Then there was a long wait.
"They're slow in sending," murmured the schoolboy who sat with his father next to Stanley, and who had been cheering for Harvard on the slightest provocation.
The announcer advanced portentously.
"With magnificent interference by Stanley, Mercer circles Prentice. He is pulled down by Hall on Harvard's ten-yard line."
The massive, disapproving silence seemed to emphasize the sparse, vigorous applause. Stanley was clapping his hands, bouncing round in his seat, and yelling.
"Well, well, well! What's going to happen?" came the derisive inquiry from one of the Yale sympathizers behind.
"Brek-ek Koax; Siss boom, rah, Ya-ale!" bawled the red-nosed Irish-looking person.
"Watch for a touchdown round Prentice!" cried another.
From the movement behind him, Stanley imagined that Mr. Prentice had turned to glower indignantly at the author of this suggestion—and Stanley chuckled. "That's the place, though," he said to himself. "Mercer and Ted can do the trick."
Then the announcer flung up his hand in excitement and shouted:
"Yale fumbles!" The crowd sprang up with a yell. The announcer implored silence, stretching out his hands, and the noise quieted. "The ball rolls out from a scrimmage; little Prentice is Johnny on the spot, and starts with a clear field for a touchdown." Then the tumult broke loose again; they were all on their feet, shrieking, flourishing hats; all but Stanley and a few half-hidden figures here and there; the announcer still stood smiling. And when the shouting had subsided again, "He is overhauled by Stanley on Yale's eight-yard line."
With a final joyous clapping the audience resumed their seats. The schoolboy beside Stanley turned round. "Well, well, well! What's going to happen!" he cried viciously at the Yale enthusiasts.
"Sh-h, Jack! Don't be cheap!" his father rebuked him.
It gave Stanley an excuse for looking round; disappointed as he was, he had somehow a desire to see Mr. Prentice at that moment. He caught Mr. Prentice in the act of wiping his eyes with his handkerchief.
The Harvard centre was stronger than the Yale centre; and in three more plays Harvard crowded across the line for a touchdown. The auditorium resounded with the cheers; presently these were diverted into a great chorus as the crowd swung into the song,
"Glory, glory, glory to the Crimson,
For this is Harvard's Day."
And Stanley muttered to himself, "It is certainly not much of a day for the Stanley brothers."
Soon it was announced that there were tout three minutes of the first half left to play. The ball had wavered back and forth above the middle of the blackboard, and had come to rest on Harvard's fifty-yard line—in Yale's possession. The crowd had settled back into comfortable assurance.
After a pause the announcer paced forward with great deliberation. There was something solemn in his manner.
"Yale has executed a trick play." He spoke with reluctance; he hesitated, and the crowd hung upon his fateful, carefully spaced words. "Burke passes the ball to Stanley, and from nearly the middle of the field, with the whole Yale team interfering for him, Stanley carries it over Harvard's line for a touchdown."
Stanley leaped to his feet; and while the supporters behind him were yapping out taunts and jeers at Harvard, he swung his arms as if he was leading a multitude, and cried out all alone the real Yale cheer. The Harvard people turned to look; some of them smiled at him a little wistfully, and because he was so clearly a Yale man they clapped him when he sat down.
"Why don't you cheer for Stanley?" asked the schoolboy next to him in a resentful voice. "He's the whole Yale team."
"I'm cheering for him, all right," said Stanley with a grin. He felt someone nudging him from behind. He turned; Mr. Prentice put his handover his shoulder.
"That run of your brother's," said Mr. Prentice. "It got by my boy—but it must have been a corker. Shake."
Then Stanley put out his hand. The schoolboy had been taking this in with open eyes.
"Are you Stanley's brother?" he asked.
"Yes." Stanley laughed. "And that gentleman that I just shook hands with is Prentice's father."
The boy glanced behind him and then at Stanley again with puzzled but respectful interest.
The half ended with the score six to six.
"Mr. Stanley"—Mr. Prentice leaning forward spoke in a low voice—"I tried to reach you by telephone an hour ago. Will you allow me a few minutes' talk with you after the game?"
"Of course—if you wish it." Stanley's mood had altogether changed; he was feeling friendly now with all the world.
Mr. Prentice sat forward and asked him about his brother, and how old Ted was and how heavy and where he had learned to play; and also he told Stanley about his boy Tom. And as the immediate neighbors began to understand that the father and the brother of two opposing players were discussing their heroes together, a group gathered near them in the aisle and listened curiously.
The intermission came to an end; the wanderers returned to their seats. For the first ten minutes the reports showed that both teams were playing on the defensive; it was chiefly now a kicking game; back and forth travelled the ball, with neither side gaining any notable advantage. Then came the statement:
"For Harvard, Williams makes one yard round Stanley. Stanley is hurt. Prentice is disqualified for slugging him. Harvard protests the decision."
There was a dead silence, then an excited hum all through the audience.
"My boy never slugged; he never slugged!" Mr. Prentice declared it passionately in Stanley's ear.
"I don't believe he did," Stanley replied.
Mr. Prentice sat forward with his head up, anxious and defiant. Stanley crouched with his elbows on his knees.
"I hope your brother isn't much hurt," said the schoolboy next to him.
"Thank you; I guess he'll be all right," said Stanley.
But he still sat forward, hugging his arms in suspense.
At last came the message:
"Dunlap is warming up to take Stanley's place, but Stanley refuses to leave the field." And Harvard as well as the brother clapped at that. "Stanley supports the Harvard protest. The referee reverses his decision—Prentice is allowed to play; and before the line-up Prentice and Stanley shake hands."
The applause for Prentice's long run, and for the Harvard touchdown had been no greater than that which now erupted from the audience. And Mr. Prentice, while he clapped and shouted, babbled intermittently into Stanley's ear—babbled emotionally: "That brother of yours—I—well, I hope Tom would have done the same."
But Stanley was too happy at that moment to have the slightest thought of Tom.
"Williams tries Stanley again, and gains a yard," proclaimed the announcer. "Stanley is hurt again."
"That's it; they're tryin' to do him up!" shouted one of the Yale sympathizers. "It's the only chance they've got."
"Cut it out!" retorted an irritated Harvard man from across the aisle.
"What do you think is the trouble with your brother?" Mr. Prentice said to Stanley. "Had he a bad knee, or something of that kind?"
"No; not a weak spot. He was in perfect condition."
"Oh, then he'll be himself again. Wind knocked out, most likely."
"I hope he can go on playing," said the schoolboy. "Guess I never wished that before about the best man on the other team."
"Thanks." Stanley smiled at him gratefully.
There were two or three minutes' suspense. Then:
"Dunlap takes Stanley's place; Stanley is led off the field." The announcer gave the news with some gusto—but it met with no joyous response.
"It can't be serious," said Mr. Prentice. "Led off—not carried off."
"It's pretty bad," Stanley replied. "If it wasn't, they would never have taken him out—and he wouldn't have gone."
"I'm awfully sorry," said the schoolboy.
Yale man though he was, Stanley's interest in the game had been abruptly stifled. While the reports were being dealt out at intervals he was thinking of Ted—wondering if the boy was lying on the side-line, or if he was so badly hurt that he had been immediately removed from the field. And Ted would be looking for him after the game—wondering why he didn't come to give his sympathy—to talk it all over. Stanley winked tears from his eyes.
"Williams goes round the new man Dunlap for twenty yards; the ball is Harvard's on Yale's thirty-yard line," cried the announcer.
Harvard was up with a shout; Stanley was startled out of his melancholy indifference. Then gradually the audience settled down.
"Williams again takes the ball and circles Dunlap for twenty-two yards. The ball is Harvard's on Yale's eight-yard line."
Again there was a mad springing up, a wild tumult of cheers. "Touchdown!" "Touchdown!" The cries, mingling from different parts of the room, swelled into importunate demand.
And Harvard scored—crushing through Yale's centre for short gains until on the third play Hinchman lay across the line clasping the ball.
The young schoolboy and his father were on their feet, thumping each other, shouting while they laughed; Mr. Prentice behind was holding aloft his hat, motionless, in supreme salute, and emitting a monotonous, inarticulate roar. Then down in front a man of fifty climbed on a chair and called for the Harvard cheer, and a cheer was organized out of the tumult. After that they sang, "Glory, glory to the Crimson"—and the song got a fresh impetus when the announcer interjected that Williams had kicked the goal.
Stanley saw the schoolboy looking down at him from his cheerful eminence and ruefully smiled. The boy dropped into the chair beside him.
"It's great," he said. "But I know we'd never have got it if your brother had been in the game."
"Thank you," said Stanley. "But your man Williams is a good one."
"He never got round your brother once," said the boy.
Mr. Prentice touched Stanley's shoulder and bent down.
"If it hadn't been for your brother my boy couldn't have shared in this," he murmured; his voice was tremulous. "And your boy is not among those who are beaten."
"That won't make it any easier for him," Stanley answered.
"But for you, perhaps."
He again touched Stanley's shoulder—with a sort of shy friendliness.
There was no more scoring; in ten minutes the game had ended.
"Three times three, and nine long Harvards!" shouted a young man who had sprung upon the stage. "Gather up close, and everybody cheer!"
Mr. Prentice touched Stanley's arm.
"I won't ask you to wait for anything like this," he said.
"Mr. Prentice," said Stanley, "please excuse me—I want to get the first train to New Haven and find out about my brother——"
"You'd better come home with me and call up New Haven on the long-distance. You'll get the information quicker. And perhaps you can get your brother on the wire. Won't that do?"
The Harvard cheer was rolling out; Stanley nodded in silence, and with Mr. Prentice walked away.
Not until Stanley had learned that Ted's injury was a dislocated shoulder and, though painful, not serious—not, indeed, until he had actually heard Ted's voice over the telephone and talked with him about the game—did Mr. Prentice embark upon his theme. Then, sitting in the library, which overlooked the Charles and gave a view of the lights which had just flashed out on Harvard Bridge, and beyond that of the clouded, heavy red sunset, sitting there comfortably with whiskey and soda and cigars, the young man and the old came to an understanding.
"And in conclusion," said Mr. Prentice, reaching out and laying his hand on Stanley's knee, "I want to say that in business or in sport the Prentices mean to play just as fair as the Stanleys—and they want the Stanleys to help them."
They dined together—Mr. Prentice celebrated his son's victory by opening champagne—and afterward they sat in the library smoking long cigars. Late in the evening Mrs. Prentice and her daughter arrived from New Haven.
"O Thomas!" cried Mrs. Prentice, throwing her arms about her husband. "Our boy—our dear boy! If you could only have seen——" She burst into tears.
"She had a horrid time—she's a nervous wreck, poor dear," said Lucy, and while she kissed her father she patted her mother soothingly.
Then she turned to Stanley, and as the parents were absorbed in each other she drew him to the farther side of the room.
"You've fixed things up all right?" she asked.
"Yes. But—" he dropped his voice and looked at her entreatingly—"it's of no importance to me unless it's of importance to you."
"Well," she said, and humor as well as gentleness danced in her eyes, "our family owe yours something. I saw Tom after the game; and he said your brother was perfectly sweet to him all through."
"So it is only decent that you should be the same to me," said Stanley.
She smiled and met his eager look.
"I would always try to be—John," she murmured.
Some ill-natured reader will probably point out that Harvard never beat Yale at New Haven by a score of 12 to 6. The answer is that the score had to be fictitious; otherwise the Stanleys and the Prentices would be recognized under their real names and would object.