The Winning Touchdown/Chapter 2

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"And so Ed is going to leave," mused Tom, after a momentous pause. "It sure will make a hole in the team."

"Oh, it's got me all broke up," gloomily declared Kindlings, who was captain of the recently organized eleven. "I don't know what I'm going to do to fill his place, and Mr. Lighten, while he says we'll make out somehow, feels pretty bad over it. But it can't be helped, of course, for Ed has to go."

For the time being, the news of the loss of one of Randall's best football players overshadowed the matter of the missing chair. Tom had changed his mind about going out to see if he could get on the trail of who had taken it, and sat with Kindlings and his two other chums, discussing what could be done to replace Kerr as right half-back.

"Bricktop Molloy might work in there," suggested Phil, "only he's too good a tackle to take out of the line."

"Why can't you go there yourself, Phil?" asked Tom. "You've done some playing back of the line."

"No, I need Phil at quarter," objected Dan. "We'll have to think of something else. If I didn't need you at end, Tom, I'd try you in Ed's place."

"Oh, I'm no good bucking the line," objected the tall lad who pitched for the Varsity nine.

"What's the matter with one of the Jersey Twins?" asked Sid.

"Both Jerry and Joe Jackson are too light," and Dan shook his head. There were many suggestions, and various expedients offered, and, while the discussion is under way perhaps a moment can be spared to make our new readers a little better acquainted with the main characters of this story.

In the initial volume of this "College Sports Series," entitled, "The Rival Pitchers," there was told the story of how Tom Parsons, a rather raw country lad, came to Randall College, made the 'varsity nine, and twirled the horsehide in some big games, thereby doing much to help win the pennant for Randall. He had an uphill fight, for Fred Langridge, a rich bully, contested with him for the place in the box, and nearly won out. There was fierce rivalry between them, not only in baseball, but concerning a certain Miss Madge Tyler.

In the second volume, called "A Quarter-Back's Pluck," there was related how Phil Clinton went into the championship game under heavy odds, and how he won out, though his mind dwelt more on a fake telegram in his pocket, telling him that his mother was dying, than on the game, and on the players whom he at last piloted to victory.

A winter of study followed the games on the gridiron, and with the advent of spring, longing eyes were cast toward the baseball diamond whereon, as soon as it was dry enough, the Randall lads gathered to prepare for the season.

In the third book of the series, called "Batting to Win," there was told the story of how Randall triumphed over her rivals, though at first it looked as if she would lose. A loving cup had been offered, to be played for by members of the Tonoka Lake League, of which Randall College was a member, and how it was won forms the subject of the story.

Incidentally, there was quite a mystery concerning Sidney Henderson, or "Sid," as he was universally called. From the opening of the season his conduct was peculiar, and there were many unjust suspicions regarding him. It was not until near the end, when he had been barred from the games, that the cause of his actions became known.

Then, at the last moment, when Randall was losing the final game of the series, which was a tie between her team and that of Boxer Hall, the ban was removed, Sid rushed upon the diamond, and batted to win.

The baseball season had closed, summer had come, and with it the long vacation. Now that was passed, and from mountains, lakes and seaside the students had come trooping back to Randall. All our old friends were on hand, and some new ones, whom we shall meet from time to time. As the weather became cool enough, the football squad had been put to work under the watchful eye of Captain Dan Woodhouse, and the coach, Mr. Lighten.

Before I go on with the story I want to add, for the benefit of new readers, a little bit of history about the college.

Randall was located in a town of the middle west, and not far from the institution ran Sunny River, a stream that afforded boating opportunities for the students. It emptied into Tonoka Lake, which body of water gave the name to the athletic league, made up of Randall, Boxer Hall, Fairview Institute,—the latter a co-educational place of learning,—and several other smaller academies. Haddonfield was the nearest town to Randall College, and thither the lads went whenever chance afforded.

Venerable Dr. Albertus Churchill was the head of the college, and even though he was privately dubbed "Moses" by the lads, it was not in any spirit of disrespect, for they all loved and admired him. It was quite the contrary with Professor Emerson Tines, the "Latin dreadful," and when I state that he was called "Pitchfork," his character is indicated in a word. Hardly less disliked was Mr. Andrew Zane, the proctor, who seemed to have a sworn enmity against the lads. But they managed to have fun in spite of him. There were other members of the faculty, some liked and some disliked, and occasionally there were changes in the teaching staff.

As for Randall itself, it was a fairly large institution. There was the main building, at the head of a large campus. Off to the left was the athletic field, and somewhat to the rear was Booker Memorial chapel, the stained glass windows of which were worth going miles to see.

To the right of the college proper was Biology Hall, the endowment gift of an old graduate, and not far from that was the residence for the faculty. Directly in the rear of the main building were the dormitories, the east one for the freshmen and sophomores, and that on the west for the juniors and seniors.

As for the lads who attended Randall, you will meet more or less of them as this story progresses. Sufficient to say that Tom Parsons, Phil Clinton and Sid Henderson roomed together, being called the "inseparables." Among their friends they numbered many, Dan Woodhouse, Billy or "Dutch" Housenlager, "Bricktop" Molloy, Jerry and Joe Jackson, dubbed the "Jersey Twins," because they came from some town in the Garden State. Then there was "Snail" Looper, so called because of his propensity to prowl about in the dark; Pete Backus, nicknamed "Grasshopper," because he aspired to be a jumper; "Bean" Perkins, who could always be depended on to make a noise at a game, and many more.

There were some students not so friendly to our heroes, notably Fred Langridge, who, because of a serious scrape, had withdrawn from Randall and was now at Boxer Hall. Garvey Gerhart, his crony, who appeared in previous books, had also left, and Ford Fenton, whose uncle always formed a subject of boasting with him, because of the latter's former ability as a coach at Randall, was among the missing. For Ford played a mean trick on his classmates, and there was such a row raised over it that his relatives advised him to quit.

And now, I believe, you have met all, or nearly all the lads of whom I propose to tell you more. Of course there were the girls, Miss Tyler, and Ruth Clinton—Phil's sister,—and Miss Mabel Harrison, who attended Fairview. I will introduce them more particularly in due season.

"Say, how can you fellows stand that?" asked Dan, after a pause, during which they had all done much thinking.

"Stand what?" asked Tom, starting out of a day dream, in which thoughts over the loss of the chair and the loss of Kerr on the football team were mingled.

"That clock. It gives me the fidgets," and Kindlings grabbing a book, made as if to throw it at the timepiece.

With a quick motion, Phil stopped him, and the volume fell harmlessly to the floor.

"It doesn't give you a chance to catch your breath," went on the football captain. "Always seems to want you to hurry-up."

"I wish it would make Sid hurry-up some mornings, when the chapel bell rings," remarked Tom. "The frowsy old misogynist—the troglodyte—lies abed until the last minute. It would take more than that clock to get him up."

"Slanderer!" crooned Sid, unconcernedly, from the depths of the sofa.

"No, but seriously," went on Dan. "I can't see how you stand it. It gives me the fidgets. It seems to say 'hurry-up—hurry-up—hurry-up— no-time no-time no-time'! Jove! I'd get one of those old Grandfather clocks, if I were you. The kind that reminds one of an open fire, in a gloomy old library, with a nice book, and ticking away like this: 'tick———tock——tick———tock.' That's the kind of a clock to have. But that monstrosity——"

He simulated a shudder, and turned up his coat collar as if a wind was blowing down his back.

"Oh, you're just nervous worrying about what's going to happen to-the football team," spoke Phil. "Cheer up, old man, the worst is yet to come. Suppose you'd been robbed of the finest armchair that ever you sat in——"

"Finest fiddlesticks!" burst out Dan. "That chair had spinal meningitis, I guess, or the dinkbots. Every time you sat in it you could tell how many springs there were in the seat and back without counting. Ugh!" and Dan rubbed his spine reflectively.

"But it's gone," went on Tom, "and I'd give a five-spot to know who took it. Come on, fellows, let's go scouting around and see if we can get on the trail of it. I'm glad they didn't take the clock or the sofa," and he gazed at the two remaining articles which formed the most cherished possessions of the inseparables. They had acquired the clock, chair and sofa some time before, purchasing them from a former student on the occasion of their becoming roommates, and though they had since secured many new objects of virtu, their affections clung to these three originals.

Their room was a typical college lads' apartment, hung with sporting prints, boxing gloves, foils, masks, baseball bats, fishing rods, and m certain places, like honored shrines, were the pictures of pretty girls.

"Well, are you fellows coming?" asked Tom, as he started for the door.

"Where?" inquired Phil, who still had on his football suit.

"To hunt for the chair. It must be somewhere around the college. I think it was taken for a joke, and if it was by any freshmen I'll make 'em wish they'd never come to Randall."

"I'm with you!" cried Sid.

"Oh, let's stay and talk about what we're going to do for the eleven!" begged Dan. "But, for the love of cats, first stop that blamed clock, if you don't want me to go crazy!"

His objection was so evidently genuine, that Phil halted the ticking by the simple process of jabbing a toothpick in the slot of the timepiece regulator.

"That's better," observed Kindlings. "Now, about Ed Kerr, I think the best we can do is to—"

He got no further, for the door of the room was fairly burst open, and in came the Jersey Twins.

"Have you heard the news?" demanded Joe Jackson.

"The news?" echoed Jerry.

"Sure! We knew it first," said Phil. "You mean about our chair being stolen."

"Oh, hang your chair!" cried Dan.

"It's nothing about chairs," said Jerry, with a curious look.

"Not a word," came the echo.

"It's worse," went on Jerry.

"Much worse;" the echo.

"Oh, you mean about Ed Kerr having to leave," spoke Dan. "How'd you hear it so soon? It will be all over college to-night, I guess."

"Ed Kerr going to leave?" gasped Jerry.

"Ed Kerr?" also gasped the echoing brother.

"Yes. Is that what you came to tell us?" demanded Sid, as he got up from the sofa, not without some rather strenuous gymnastics, for once you sank into the soft depths, it was difficult to arise unaided.

"No, we don't know anything about Ed leaving," went on Jerry, as he looked from one to the other, "but Bricktop Molloy just told us that he was going to quit next week, and go to——"

"Bricktop going to leave!" gasped Dan. "More bad news! Will it never stop raining!" and he clung heavily with his arms around Tom's neck.

"Say, is this straight?" demanded Phil, excitedly.

"Sure! Bricktop told us himself," answered Joe.

"Where's he going?" inquired Sid.

"To New York. Going to take a special postgraduate course at Columbia, he said. He's got a chance to get in with some big mining firm, and he's got to work up on a few special studies. Oh, Bricktop is going to leave all right."

"Then what's to become of the Randall football eleven?" demanded Dan, in a tragic voice. "Two of her best players going to leave, and hardly time enough to break other fellows into their places before the big games! Oh, fellows, this is sure beastly luck!"