The Rover Boys at School/15
DAN BAXTER'S MONEY.
After the departure of Josiah Crabtree from Putnam Hall, George Strong became the leading assistant, and another teacher named Garmore took second place. Garmore was a Yale man, and soon became as favorably known as Strong, so the pupils had nothing more to find fault with, so far as their instructors went.
As has been noted before, there were several baseball teams among the boys. As it grew too cold for baseball, these teams gave up this sport, and a good number of the lads took up football.
In this sport, Sam, being a good runner, felt very much at home, and soon he was at the head of one of the teams, playing center. Tom was also on the team, playing quarterback.
Not far from Putnam Hall was another academy kept by a certain gentleman named Pornell The pupils at Pornell's were also great football players, and one day they sent over a challenge that the Putnams, as they were dubbed, should play them a match for the championship of the township in which both seats of learning were located.
The challenge was brought by Peleg Snuggers, who had gone over to Pornell's on an errand for Captain Putnam.
"It's for you," said Snuggers, handing the communication to Sam. The youthful captain of the eleven broke open the letter and read it aloud:
- "Pornell Academy, November 18, 189—.
"To the Putnam Hall Football Team: We hereby challenge you to a game of football for the championship of the township of Cedarville, the game to be played Thanksgiving afternoon next at two o'clock, at our grounds or at your own, as you may elect. We would prefer to play on our grounds, as we have a grandstand, one-half of which will be reserved for your friends, if you will come over.
- "Pornell Football Team,
- "Per Harry Ackerson, Capt. and Sec'y."
"They certainly mean business," said Tom, who was in the crowd, listening to the reading of the challenge. "I go in for accepting it."
"So do I," said Larry, who played halfback.
"And I," put in Fred, who was on the right end.
The members of the football team were all at hand, and it did not take long to find out that
each was in favor of the game, and then the matter was laid before Captain Putnam.
"Want to play football with Mr. Pornell's lads, eh?" smiled the captain. "All right, I know of no healthier sport, rightly conducted. You shall play them, and on their grounds if you wish. But, mind you, no neglecting lessons for the sake of practicing between now and Thanksgiving!"
The pupils promised to neglect nothing, and went off with a hurrah.
Soon Peleg Snuggers was on his way to the rival academy with the following answer to the challenge:
- "Putnam Hall, November 19, 189—.
"Pornell Football Team: We hereby accept your challenge to play a game of football for the championship of the township on Thanksgiving afternoon next at two o'clock. As you have a grandstand we will play on your grounds. In return for the use of half of your stand on this occasion the senior class of our academy will put up a silver cup as a trophy, said trophy to go to the club winning the game, and to belong to that club which shall during matches to be arranged in the future win the cup three times.
- "The Putnam Hall Football Team,
- Per Fred Harrison, Sec'y and Treas."
Dick had suggested giving the cup, and all of the senior class "chipped in" willingly, raising ten dollars, with which a very neat trophy was secured through a pupil whose father was a silversmith in New York. I say all the senior class contributed. I must correct this. There was one exception, and that was Dan Baxter.
"I haven't got anything for you or your brothers," growled the bully when Dick spoke of the matter before the class. "Let 'em furnish their own silver cups if they want 'em."
"All right, Baxter; I guess Sam and Tom will be just as well satisfied if you don't chip in," had been Dick's ready answer. "I only wanted to give everyone a chance to own an equal share in the gift, if it was desired."
"Our football team can't play for a sour apple, Dick Rover. They'll be whipped out of their boots."
"If I was a betting boy, I'd bet you a dollar on the result," answered Dick coldly.
"I'll bet you ten dollars we win!" put in Fred Garrison impulsively.
"I'll cover that bet," sneered Baxter, and drew from his pocket a roll of bills.
"Gracious, Baxter, where did you get the wad?" questioned several in chorus, for the supply of pocket money among most of the pupils was limited.
"Never mind—I have it, and that's enough," answered Baxter, but he lost no time in putting all of the money but the ten-dollar bill away.
It was all Fred Garrison could do to scrape up an equal sum, and even at that he had to borrow a dollar from Dick. But he was "game," and the money went to another pupil, who became stakeholder until the contest should be decided.
"It's a shame!" cried Sam, when he heard of the transaction. "To bet against his own school! I'm like Dick—I don't believe in betting, and yet I am glad Fred took him up. If it is in my power, Baxter shall lose his wager."
Thanksgiving was but a week off, so the football team had to work hard to get into proper condition. Moreover, studies must not be neglected, for Captain Putnam was strict, and would have canceled the game had his cadets become unmindful of their school duties. But the team got permission to get up an hour earlier than usual every morning, and this time was spent in the hardest kind of practice with the ball.
The report that Baxter had bet against his own school spread, and the bully became more unpopular than ever. But this did not daunt him, and soon he had a dozen other bets on, aggregating fifty dollars or more.
"It's a mystery to me where he gets so much money," said Dick to Captain Blossom one day. "Is his father rich?"
"I can't tell you," answered the youthful commander of Company A. "Fact of the matter is, nobody knows much about Baxter—not even Mumps his chum. Nobody ever comes to see him, and he seldom ever gets any letters. Yet he always has all the spending money he wants."
"Perhaps he's got a gold mine somewhere," laughed Dick.
"I don't know about that, but I do know that there are days when he hasn't a cent, and the next day he will have just such a roll of bills as you saw him with day before yesterday—and the money doesn't come to him through the mail either."
"Perhaps Captain Putnam deals it out to him."
Captain Harry shook his head. "Not much! The captain wouldn't let him have more than five dollars at a time. I've been through the mill, and I know."
Here the matter was dropped, but Dick had good cause to remember this conversation later on.
The distance from Putnam Hall to Pornell Academy was a mile and a half, and it was arranged that the football team, Captain Putnam, George Strong, and several others should ride to the latter place in the Hall carriages while the others walked the distance. Thanksgiving dawned bright and clear. The morning was spent in the Hall chapel, and dinner was served promptly at twelve.
"Don't eat too much," cautioned Sam. "I want every player to be wide awake to-day."
The start was signalized by a grand flourish of tin horns; and away went the two carriages with the horses on a gallop, followed by a large number of the cadets on foot, organized into their regular companies, with Major Bart Conners at the head of the battalion. The boys were in their best uniforms, and certainly presented an imposing appearance as they marched behind the music of their drums and fifes.
When the grounds at Pornell Academy were reached, they were found to be more than three-quarters full, for the proprietor of the place had opened up for the benefit of the public at large, and many had come from Cedarville and the surrounding territory. The grandstand was already comfortably filled, many coming into the part reserved for the Hall folks on tickets of invitation issued by Sam and indorsed by Captain Putnam.
"Here they come!" yelled the boys of Pornell. "Three cheers for Putnam Hall!"
The cheers were given with a will; and, getting the football team and the other cadets together, Putnam Hall gave a rousing cheer in return for Pornell Academy. Then the football teams disappeared into their respective dressing rooms, and the newly arrived cadets took their places in the grandstand. A timekeeper and referee had already been appointed by Sam and the rival captain, at a meeting at the Hall three days before.
"My! what a crowd!" exclaimed Tom, as he surveyed the multitude. "I didn't think we were going to have such an audience as this!"
"Nor I," returned Sam. "We must do our level best, fellows!"
"That's what!" came from several. "If we get whipped——"
"Remember what Baxter did—that's enough to nerve anybody on," finished Larry Colby. "By the way, where is Baxter?"
"Sneaked out of the ranks," answered another player. "Nobody wanted to march with him."
"Well, I don't blame them," concluded Sam.
Doctor Pornell now put in an appearance and desired to know if the football team did not wish to march around the oval escorted by his own players.
"Certainly!" cried Sam. "And to show this is a purely friendly match, let us march side by side," he went on, and this was also arranged. The Putnam Hall drum-and-fife corps led the march, and each player strode forth with a rival at his side. The march brought forth a wild round of applause and a veritable shrieking of tin horns and cracking of wooden clappers.
After the march each team was allowed quarter of an hour for practicing. The Pornellites came out first and tumbled over the leather in lively fashion. The Putnamites soon followed.
"They may be all right, but they haven't the weight," said one of the rivals. And this appeared true, for each Pornellite, man for man, was at least five pounds heavier than his opponent. But weight does not always count for everything, even in a football match.
"Time for practice is up!" came presently, and the two teams drew away from the gridiron. Then there was a toss-up for goals, and Pornell won and took the east end, that which was most favored by the slight breeze that was blowing.
And then the great game began.