The Winning Touchdown/Chapter 28

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CHAPTER XXVIII


THE LEGAL BATTLE


Langridge left the gymnasium immediately after the unpleasant scene, and Gerhart soon followed. In a manner, the evening had been partly spoiled for Ruth, but her girl chums gathered around her, and succeeded in bringing back a smile to her face.

She and Tom "sat out" the dance over which there had been a dispute, and in a palm bower they talked of many things. Miss Clinton begged off from her partner in next to the last dance, but she did the closing number with Tom, who wished that the music would never cease.

But the dance finally came to an end with a crash of melody, and though the youths and maidens applauded vigorously, the tired musicians put away their instruments and departed.

"Well, it's over," spoke Tom, regretfully, as he escorted his fair companion toward the dressing room.

"Yes, but it was—glorious while it lasted!" she exclaimed, with brightly sparkling eyes. She was herself again.

"When is the next one?" he asked, eagerly.

"Oh, you greedy boy!" she cried. "I'll let you know, however. We can't have them too often. The ogress objected to this one, as it was."

"Meaning Miss Philock?" asked Tom.

"No one else. I'll be out soon, and then we'll go home. There are Madge and Mabel."

Tom and his friends went to have a final cup of coffee, before starting off with the girls, and while they were drinking the beverage, Frank Simpson remarked:

"Well, we ought to know this week whether we're going to have a Randall College any more or not."

"How so?" asked Phil.

"The real legal battle opens in court to-morrow. I heard Dr. Churchill telling Mr. Zane about it this afternoon. It seems there is a certain point to be argued before they get at the main issue, and whichever side wins this point will have the advantage, and practically get the case."

"What sort of a point is it?" asked Tom, who had a little leaning toward the law.

"Blessed if I know?" replied the Californian. "It was too deep for me, though I heard Moses mention it. There was something about a writ of certiorari or lis pendis or an injunction, or something like that."

"Maybe the college authorities are going to ask for an injunction to prevent Langridge and that crowd from interfering until the football season is over," suggested Holly Cross, hopefully.

"What? Do you imagine that all Moses and the others have to think of is football?" demanded Phil. "I tell you, fellows, this is a serious matter. I'd hate to see old Randall done away with."

"So would we all," declared Kindlings. "But maybe we'll win in court, just as——"

"As we didn't against Fairview, but as we're going to do against Boxer Hall!" interrupted Tom, with energy, and then he saw Ruth beckoning to him, as she stood with her chums, most bewitchingly arrayed in a fur coat. "Come on!" called Tom to his friends, and soon they were escorting the girls home.

There was some expectation when the students at Randall assembled in chapel the next morning, and it was borne out by an announcement Dr. Churchill made.

"Perhaps some of you have heard of the further rumors going about concerning our difficulties," he said, gravely. "I beg of you to pay no attention to them. The case is far from settled, though within two days it may progress much toward that end, either for us—or against us. I now wish to state," he went on, after a pause, "that the faculty as well as the directors have been summoned to court to-morrow and the following day, so that Randall will be without a teaching force. You young gentlemen will be given two holidays from your lectures and studies, but I request that none of you leave the vicinity of the college in that time. Mr. Zane will be in charge. I believe that is all," and the president bowed to the students.

"Wow! Think of it! Two days off!" whispered Dutch.

"You'll practice football as you never did before," declared Kindlings with energy. "It isn't going to be all cakes and ginger ale for you, Dutch, my lad!"

There was much jubilation among the students at the prospect of an unexpected vacation, and even that day, preceding the two days' holiday, the spirit of unrest was manifested, so that lectures suffered.

Early the next morning, President Churchill and the entire faculty took the train for the county seat, where the legal battle would be fought in the courthouse. The president and the instructors were needed to give evidence as to how long Randall had been in undisturbed possession of the land, as the college lawyers hoped thus to prove their right to it, even without the lost quit-claim deed.

"Now, young gentlemen," began Proctor Zane, when the authorities had departed, "I shall expect implicit obedience from all of you in this emergency. I want no skylarking or horseplay," and as he said that he looked directly at Dutch Housenlager.

"Oh, no, we won't do a thing," promised the fun-loving lad. "Will we, Holly?"

"Speak for yourself. I'm going to practice kicking," declared the big centre, as he walked over toward the gridiron with a ball under his arm, followed by a number of the eleven.

Kindlings and the coach took advantage of the free time to insist on thorough practice, and an impromptu game was arranged with a nearby preparatory school for the following day, while for the present the 'varsity would have the scrub as opponents. There was a noticeable improvement on the part of the regular eleven, and Captain Woodhouse felt much encouraged.

"I say, fellows," remarked Dutch Housenlager, as he strolled into the room of our four chums that night, and found Frank Simpson there, "I've got a great idea."

"What is it, to set the college on fire, transport it bodily to some other location, or some other cute and infantile bit of cutting-up like that?" asked Tom.

"Neither, you old catamaran! But Zane has his hands full with the freshman class. Particular hob has broken loose over in their dormitory, and 'Zany' is at his wits' end. Now, what's the matter with some of us getting into his room, and upsetting it a bit, to pay him back for what he's made us suffer? How's that for a joke?"

"Too kiddish," declared Phil. "If you can't think up anything more lively you'd better go to bed, or join the freshies. Come again, Dutch."

"Say, it's a wonder you fellows wouldn't think up something lively yourselves, once in a while," protested the big lad. "You want me to do it all, and then you blame me if it doesn't come out right. Name something yourself, Phil Clinton," challenged Dutch.

"Oh, get out, we're going to have a game of chess," declared Sid. "Keep quiet."

"Well, if you fellows don't want to have a good time, I'm going to," declared Dutch, with an injured air. "I'll find someone to do the trick with me, and then you'll wish you'd come along."

"Fare thee well," mockingly called Tom, after the departing student.

Dutch managed to get Holly Cross and the two Jersey twins into his scheme, and the four lads, after ascertaining that the proctor was busily engaged trying to bring order out of chaos in the freshmen ranks, made for Mr. Zane's room.

"We'll make him think a cyclone has broken loose," declared Dutch, gleefully. "It will be rich."

Now Mr. Zane was the personification of neatness. His room was as well arranged as the stateroom of the captain on an ocean liner. There was a place for everything, and everything was always in its place.

But the mischief-making students had not been inside more than three minutes, before the apartment did indeed look as though a looting burglar had been at work. Drawers of bureaus were pulled out, books were scattered all about, the chairs were piled up on the tables, a couch was turned over, and some of the incandescent light bulbs removed.

"Now let's turn every picture with the face to the wall," proposed Dutch, with a chuckle.

"Great!" declared Joe Jackson.

"Immense!" echoed his brother.

They were in the act of turning the etchings and engravings about face, when there came a sudden knock at the door. If thunder had sounded in the room the lads could not have been more surprised. They looked at each other in consternation. The knock was repeated.

"Co—come in," stammered Holly.

Slowly the portal was pushed open, and, there, standing in the hall, was Professor Emerson Tines, with a small valise in his hand.

At the sight of the confusion that reigned in the proctor's well-ordered apartment a look of amazement spread itself over the face of the Latin instructor. His jaw fell, and the valise did likewise. Then he snapped his teeth together, there came a glinting light into his eyes, and with a frosty smile he spoke.

"Good evening, young gentlemen," he said, as he stepped into the room.

"Caught!" murmured Dutch, as he let a picture swing back into place. "Caught!"