T. HAVILAND HICKS SENIOR
BY J. RAYMOND ELDERDICE
TO MASTER LLOYD ELDERDICE
I. HICKS—WILD WEST BAD MAN II. "LEAVE IT TO HICKS" III. HICKS' PRODIGIOUS PRODIGY IV. QUOTING SCOOP SAWYER'S LETTER V. HICKS MAKES A DECISION VI. HICKS MAKES A SPEECH VII. HICKS STARTS ANOTHER MYSTERY VIII. COACH CORRIDAN SURPRISES THE ELEVEN IX. THEOPHILUS' MISSIONARY WORK X. THOR'S AWAKENING XI. "ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL" XII. THEOPHILUS BETRAYS HICKS XIII. HICKS—CLASS KID—YALE '96 XIV. THE GREATER GOAL XV. HICKS HAS A "HUNCH" XVI. THANKS TO CAESAR NAPOLEON XVII. HICKS MAKES A RASH PROPHECY XVIII. T. HAVILAND HICKS, JR.'S HEADWORK XIX. BANNISTER GIVES HICKS A SURPRISE PARTY XX. "VALE, ALMA MATER!"
T. HAVILAND HICKS, SENIOR
HICKS—WILD WEST BAD MAN
"Oh, a bold, bad man was Chuckwalla Bill— An' he lived in a shanty on Tom-cat Hill; Ten notches on the six-gun he toted on his hip— For he'd sent ten buckos on the One-way Trip!"
Big Butch Brewster, captain and full-back of the Bannister College football squad, his behemoth bulk swathed in heavy blankets and crowded into a narrow bunk, shifted his vast tonnage restlessly. He was dreaming of the wild and woolly West, and like a six-reel Western drama thrown on the screen in a moving-picture show, he visioned in his slumbers a vivid and spectacular panorama.
The first lurid scene was the Deserted Limited held up at a tank station in the great Mojave Desert by a lone, masked bandit who winged the dreaming Butch in the shoulder, the latter being an express guard who resisted. After the desperado, Two-Gun Steve, had forced the engineer to run the train back to a siding, he had ordered Butch to vamoose. Quite naturally, then, the collegian next found himself staggering across the arid expanse, until at last, half dead from a burning thirst, seeking vainly for a water-hole, the vast stretch of sandy, sagebrush-studded wastes shimmered into a gorgeous ocean of sparkling blue waters. Then, as he collapsed on the scorching-hot sand, helpless, the cool water so near, suddenly the scene shifted.
In quick and vivid succession, Butch Brewster beheld a burning stockade besieged by howling Indians, and a frontier town shot up by recklessly riding cowboys on a jamboree. Then he became a tenderfoot, badgered by yelling, shooting roisterers, and later a sheriff, bravely leading his posse to a sensational battle with that same Two-Gun Steve and his gang, entrenched in a rock-bound mountain defile.
Finally, he stood with hands above his head in company with other passengers of the Sagebrush Stagecoach, while a huge, red-shirted Westerner with a fierce black mustache and a six-shooter in each hand belching bullets at Butch's dancing feet, roared out huskily: "Oh—I'm a ring-tailed roarer (bang-bang)! I'm a rip-snortin', high-falutin', loop-the-loopin' bad man (bang-bang)! I'm wild an' woolly, an' full o' fleas, an' hard to curry below the knees—I'm a roarin' wild-cat, an' it's my night to howl (bang-bang)! Yip-yip-yip-yeee!"
Big Butch, opening his eyes and starting up, gazed about him in sheer surprise; for an instant, in that state of bewilderment that comes with sudden awakening, he almost believed himself in a Western ranch bunkhouse, and that some happy cowboy outside roared a grotesque ballad. He gazed at the interior of a rough shack built of pine boards, with bunks constructed in tiers on both sides. There were figures in them—Western cowboys, perhaps. Then it seemed, somehow, that the voice drifting from the outside was strangely familiar. Back at Bannister College, where he remembered he had gone in the dim and dusty past, he had often heard that same fog-horn voice, roaring songs of a less blood-curdling character, and accompanied by that same banjo twanging, which tortured the campus, and bothered would-be studious youths!
"I'm not in a moving-picture show," Butch informed himself, as he donned khaki trousers, football sweater, and heavy shoes. "I'm not on a Western ranch, either. I'm in the sleep-shack of Camp Bannister, the football training-camp of the Bannister College squad! Those fellows in the bunks are not cowboys, Indians, and bandits—they are my teammates! I did dream stuff that would shame a Wild West scenario, but I understand it all now—my dreams were influenced by T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.!"
At that dramatic moment, to substantiate his statement, the raucous voice, accompanied by resounding chords strummed on a banjo, sounded again. The vocal and instrumental chaos was frequently punctured by revolver reports, as the torturesome Caruso outside roared:
"Oh, Chuckwalla Bill thought life was sweet— Till he met up with Sure-shot Pete; A hotter shootin' match Last Chance never saw— But Sure-shot Pete was some quicker on the draw!"
The pachydermic Butch, fully dressed—and awake, raging in his wrath like an active volcano, glanced at his watch, and discovered that it was exactly five A.M.! Intensely pacified by this knowledge, he lumbered toward the bunkhouse door and flung it open, determined to crush the pestersome youth who thus unfeelingly disturbed the quietude of Camp Bannister at such an unearthly hour! However, his grim purpose was temporarily thwarted—before him spread a beautiful panorama, a vast canvas painted in rich hues and colors, that indescribably charming masterpiece of nature, entitled dawn.
Butch, gazing from the bunkhouse doorway toward the pebbly shore of the placid lake stretching out for two miles before him, beheld Old Sol, blood-red, peeping above the wooded hills on the far-off, opposite strand of Lake Conowingo; the luminous orb laid a flaming pathway across the shimmering waters, and golden bars of light, like gleaming fingers outstretched, fell athwart the tall pines that towered on the high bluff back of the camp. The glorious sunshine, succeeding a flood of rosy color, inundated the scene; it bathed in a gorgeous radiance the early autumn woods, it illumined the bunkhouse, and another rude shanty known to the squad as the grub-shack, it poured down on old Hinky-Dink, the ancient negro cookee, setting the breakfast tables just outside the canvas cook-tent.
"Deed, cross mah heart, Mistah Butch," grinned old Hinky-Dink, seeing, as a motion picture director would express it, "Wrath registered on the countenance" of Butch Brewster, "Ah done tole dat young Hicks dat a bird what cain't sing an' will sing mus' be made not to sing! Ah done info'med him dat yo'-all was layin' fo' him, cause he done bus' up yo' sleep!"
A jay bird, a flashing bit of vivid blue, shot from a tall pine, jeering shrilly at Butch; out on the lake, a trout leaped above the water for an infinitesimal second, its shining scales gleaming in the sunshine. From the cook-tent, where old Hinky-Dink grumbled at the frying pan, the appetizing odor of frying fish assailed the football captain, softening his wrath.
High above the shanties, on a tall flagpole made from a straight young pine, floated a big gold and green banner, its bright colors gleaming in the sunshine; it bore the words:
CAMP BANNISTER TRAINING CAMP THE FOOTBALL SQUAD BANNISTER COLLEGE
Head Coach Corridan, smashing the precedent that had made former Gold and Green squads have their training camp at Bannister College, had brought the Varsity and second-string stars to this camp on the shore of Lake Conowingo, in the Pennsylvania mountains. For two weeks, one of which had passed, they were to train at Camp Bannister, until college officially opened; swimming, hunting, cross-country runs, and a healthful outdoor existence would give the athletes superb condition, and daily scrimmages on the level field back of the bluff rounded out an eleven that promised to be the strongest in Bannister history.
As big, good-natured Butch Brewster stood in the bunkhouse doorway, his wrath at the pestiferous Hicks forgotten, in his rapture at the glorious dawn, he saw something that showed why his dreams had been of the wild West! The expression of indignation, however, yielded to one of humorous affection, as he gazed toward the shore.
"I can't be angry with Hicks!" breathed Butch, beholding a spectacle more impressive than dawn. "So, the irrepressible wretch has Coach Corridan's revolvers, used in starting our training sprints, and a lot of blank cartridges! He is giving an imitation of a Western bad man. No wonder I dreamed of Indians, cowboys, and hold-ups; I'll have revenge on the heartless villain, routing me out at five!"
He saw a massive rock, rising thirty feet in air, its sheer walls scaled only by a rope-ladder the collegians had rigged up on one side. Atop of "Lookout There!" as the campers humorously designated the rock, roosted a youth who possessed the colossal structure of a splinter, and whose cherubic countenance was decorated with a Cheshire cat grin. Quite unaware that his riotous efforts had brought out the wrathful Butch Brewster, the youthful narrator of Chuckwalla Bill's stormy career continued his excessively noisy seance.
His costume was strictly in character with his song. He wore a sombrero, picked up on his Exposition trip the past vacation, a lurid red outing-shirt, and he had wrapped a blanket around each locomotive limb to imitate a cowboy's chaps. Two revolvers suspended from a loosened belt, a la wild West, and as Butch stared, the embryo Western bad man twanged a banjo noisily, and roared the concluding stanza of his desperado hero's history:
"Said Chuckwalla Bill, 'Oh, boys, plant me With my boots on—on the wide prair-eee'— Where the coyotes howl, they planted Bill— An' so far as I know, he's sleepin' there still!"
"Here they come," grinned Butch, hearing a tumult in the bunkhouse, and a confused Babel of voices. "Hicks has awakened the camp. Now watch the fellows wreak summary vengeance on his toothpick frame!"
From the sleep-shack, aroused at that weird hour by the clamor of the irrepressible youth, T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., tumbled others of the squad, in varying stages of deshabille; big Beef McNaughton, right half-back, Roddy Perkins, the Titian-haired right-end, Pudge Langdon, a ponderous tackle, and Monty Merriweather, a clean-cut, aggressive candidate for left end. From within, other wrathy youths howled vociferous protests at their tormentor:
"Stop that noise; put your muzzle on again, Hicks!"—"Where's the fire? Say, Hicks, muffle your exhaust!"—"Say, Coach, must we endure this day and night?"
The bunkhouse fairly erupted angry collegians, boiling out like bees swarming from a disturbed hive; Hefty Hollingsworth, the Herculean center-rush. Biff Pemberton, left half-back, Bunch Bingham, Tug Cardiff, and Buster Brown, three huge last-year substitutes; second-string players, Don Carterson, Cherub Challoner, Skeet Wigglesworth, and Scoop Sawyer. A dozen others, from sheer laziness, hugged their bunks devotedly, despite the terrific turmoil outside.
"It's a disgrace, a howling shame!" exploded Beef, his elephantine frame swathed in blankets to conceal a lack of vestiture, "Last night, until midnight, that graceless wretch roosted on 'Lookout There' and because the glorious moonlight made him sentimental and slushy, he twanged his banjo and warbled such mushy stuff as 'My Love is young and fair. My Love has golden hair!' When does he expect us to sleep?"
"He doesn't!" explained Monty Merriweather, with succinct lucidity, grinning at his comrades. "Say, fellows, you know how Hicks dreads a cold shower-bath; well, some of you rage at him from the other side of the rock, while I climb up the rope-ladder and close with him! Then some of you prehistoric pachyderms ascend, and we'll chuck that pestersome insect into the cold, cold lake—"
"Done!" chuckled Butch Brewster, delightedly. So, while he, Beef McNaughton, Hefty Hollingsworth, and others beguiled the jeering Hicks, expressing in dynamic, red-hot sentences their exact opinions of his perfidy, the athletic Monty imitated a mountain-scaling Italian soldier. He climbed stealthily up the swaying rope-ladder; nearer and nearer to the unsuspecting youth he crept, while the cherubic Hicks, to tantalize the group below, again burst forth:
"Whoop-eee! I'm a bold, bad man (bang-bang)! I got ten notches on my ole six-gun—I'm a killer. I wings a man before breakfast every day! I got a private burying-ground, where I plants my victims (bang-bang)! Yip-yip-yip-yee! Oh, I'm a—Ouch, Monty—leggo me—Oh, I'll be good—why didn't I pull that rope-ladder up here? Don't bust my banjo —don't let Butch get me—"
Monty Merriweather, reaching the flat top of the rock, had courageously flung himself, without regard for the Bad Man's desperate record, on the startled Hicks, whose first thought was for his beloved banjo. While he held the blithesome tormentor helpless, Butch, Beef, and Roddy Perkins climbed the rope-ladder, and the grinning youth was soon in their clutches, while the collegians below, like a Roman, mob aroused by the oratory of Mr. Mark Antony, howled for revenge:
"Bust the old banjo over his head, Butch!"—"Sing to him, Beef—that's an awful revenge on Hicks!"—"Tie him to the rock—make him miss his breakfast!"
"Hicks," growled Butch, eyeing his sunny comrade ominously, "you ought to be tarred and feathered, and shot at sunrise! When Bannister opens, you will be a Senior, and you'll disgrace '19's dignity! This is a sample of what we have endured at college for three years, and the worst is yet to come! You have committed the awful atrocity of awakening Camp Bannister at five A. M. with your ridiculous imitation, of a Western desperado. To dampen your ardor, we will chuck you into the cold lake—just as you are!"
"Help! Assistance! Aid! Succor!" shouted the happy-go-lucky Hicks, as the behemoth Butch and Beef seized him, swinging him aloft with ludicrous ease, "Police! Fire! Murder! Take care of my banjo, Monty. Tell all the fellows at old Bannister I died game, and plant Hair-Trigger Bill with his boots on! Oooo, Beef, Butch, have a heart, that water is cold!"
T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., relieved of banjo and revolvers, but his shadow-like structure still clad in shoes, trousers, with imitation "chaps" and flamboyant red shirt, with his classic head still adorned by the sombrero, was swung back and forth by the two bulky football stars—once—twice—
"Three—Let him go!" shouted Butch Brewster, and like a falling meteor, the splinter-like youth, who had already fallen from grace, shot from the rock, head-first, disappearing with a spectacular splash in the icy waters of Lake Conowingo. Knowing Hicks to be as much at home in the water as a fish in an aquarium, the hilarious squad on shore prepared to jeer his reappearance above the water; however, their program was interrupted by old Hinky-Dink, who stood in the cook-tent doorway, belaboring a dishpan lustily with a soup-ladle, and shouting:
"Breakfus' am served; fus' an' las' call fo' breakfus; all dem what am late don't git no breakfus!"
"Breakfast!" exclaimed Monty Merriweather, who, with Roddy, Butch, and Beef, remained on the rock, despite the summons of the Cookee. "Hurry up, Hicks, I'm ravenous. Say, Butch, suppose all that Western regalia makes him water-logged; he's a terribly long while down there! Didn't he look like the hero in a moving-picture feature? We've given him the water-cure, but he will do that same stunt over again. That sunny-souled Hicks is simply Incorrigible!"
A second later, the grinning, cheery countenance of T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., shot above the water, and simultaneously with his appearance, just as though he had been chanting below the surface, for the entertainment of the finny denizens of Lake Conowingo, the irrepressible youth roared:
"A hotter shootin' match Last Chance never saw— But Sure-Shot Pete was some quicker on the draw!"
"LEAVE IT TO HICKS"
Head Coach Patrick Henry Corridan, known to toil-tortured Gold and Green football squads from time immemorial as "the Slave-Driver," Captain Butch Brewster, and serious Deacon Radford, the star Bannister quarter-back, foregathered around a table in the Camp Bannister grub-shack.
It was ten-thirty of the morning whose dawn T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., had blithesomely hailed with an impromptu musicale and saengerfest on "Lookout There!" rock, and the football triumvirate were in togs. The squad, over in the bunkhouse, noisily donned gridiron armor for the morning practice, and the pestiferous Hicks was maintaining a mysterious silence, somewhere.
This football trio, on whom rested the responsibility of rounding out a winning Bannister eleven, vastly resembled a coterie of German generals, back of the trenches, studying a war-map. Before them was spread what seemed to be a large checker-board. It was a miniature gridiron, with the chalk-marks painted in white; there were thumb-tacks stuck here and there, some with flat tops painted green and gold, others, representing the enemy, were solid red. The former had names printed on them, Butch, Roddy, Beef, and so on. By sticking these on the board, the three directors of Bannister's football destiny could work out new plays, and originate possible winning lineups.
"We've just got to win the State Championship this season, Coach!" declared Butch, banging the table emphatically, as he stated a self-evident fact. "It's my last year for Old Bannister, and so with Beef and Pudge. I'll give every ounce of strength I possess In every game, to make that pennant float over Bannister Field!"
"Bannister will win it!" vowed the behemoth Beef, his good-natured countenance grim, and his jaw set. "Not for five years has a Gold and Green team won the Championship—not since the year before Butch and I were Freshmen! We've got a splendid bunch of material to build a team with, and—"
"Our biggest problem is this," spoke Coach Corridan, as with a phenomenal display of strength he took Beef McNaughton between thumb and forefinger and placed him on the field. "We must strengthen both line and backfield, for we lost by graduation Babe McCabe, Heavy Hughes, and Jack Merritt. Now, to replace that lost power—"
Just then, from directly beneath the open window by which they had gathered, like the midnight serenade of a romantic lover, sounded the well-known foghorn voice of T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., as to the plunkety-plunk of a banjo accompaniment, he warbled melodiously:
"Gone are the days—I used to spend with Car-o-li-nah! She had the sunshine in her laughter (plunkety-plunk) Just like that state they named her after—"
"Hicks!" announced Butch, stealthily approaching the window, and beckoning his companions. "Easy—look at him, Deke, there he is, Hicks, the irrepressible! We might as well attempt to stab a rhinocerous to death with a humming-bird's feather, as to try and reform him!"
Arrayed like a lily of the field, a model of sartorial splendor, Hicks occupied a chair beneath the window, tilted back gracefully against the side of the grub-shack. He had decked his splinter-structure with a dazzling Palm Beach suit, and a glorious pink silk shirt, off-set by a lurid scarf. A Panama hat decorated his head, white Oxfords and flamboyant hosiery adorned his feet, while the inevitable Cheshire cat grin beautified his cherubic countenance. A latest "best seller" was propped on his knees, and as he perused its thrilling pages, he carelessly strummed his beloved banjo, and in stentorian tones chanted a sentimental ballad:
"Gone are the days—the golden days I'm dreaming of, I think I hear her softly calling (plunkety-plunk) 'Will you be back? Will you be back? (plunk-plunk) Back to the Car-o-li-nah you love?'"(plunkety-plunk),
For three golden campus years T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., had gayly pursued the even tenor (or basso, since he possessed a foghorn, subterranean voice) of his Bannister career. He absolutely refused to take life seriously, and he was forever arousing the wrath—mostly pretended, for no one could be really angry with the genial youth—of his comrades, by twanging his banjo and roaring out rollicking ballads at all hours. He was never so happy as when entertaining a crowd of happy students in his cozy quarters, or escorting a Hicks' Personally Conducted expedition downtown for a Beef-Steak Bust, at his expense, at Jerry's, the rendezvous of hungry collegians.
However, despite his butterfly existence, Hicks, possessed of a scintillating mind, always set the scholastic pace for 1919, by means of occasional study-sprints, as he characteristically called them. But when it came to helping his beloved Dad realize a long-cherished ambition to behold his only son and heir shatter Hicks, Sr.'s, celebrated athletic records, it was a different story. T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., ever since he committed the farcical faux pas of running the wrong way with the pigskin in the Freshman-Sophomore football contest of his first year, had been a super-colossal athletic joke at old Bannister.
His record to date, beside that reverse touchdown that won for the Sophomores, consisted of scoring a home-run with the bases congested, on a strike-out; of smashing hurdles and cross-bars on the track; endangering his heedless career with the shot and hammer; and making a ridiculous farce of every event he entered, to the vast hilarity of the students, who, with the exception of Butch Brewster, had no idea his ridiculous efforts were in earnest. In the high-jump, however, Hicks had given considerable promise, which to date the grasshopper collegian had failed to keep.
Hicks, the lovable, impulsive, and irrepressible, with his invariable sunny disposition, his generous nature, and his democratic, loyal comradeship for everybody, was loved by old Bannister. The students forgave him his pestersome ways, his frequent torturing of them with banjo-twanging and rollicking ballads. His classmates idolized him, Juniors and Sophomores were his true friends, and entering Freshmen always regarded this happy-go-lucky youth as a demigod of the campus.
Big Butch Brewster, who was forever futilely lecturing the heedless Hicks, thrust his head from the grub-shack window, fought down a grin, and sternly arraigned his graceless comrade:
"Hicks, you frivolous, campus-cluttering, infinitesimal atom of nothing, you labor under the insane delusion that college life is a continuous vaudeville show. You absolutely refuse to take your Bannister years seriously, you banjo-thumping, pillow-punishing, campus-torturing nonentity. You will never grasp the splendid opportunities within your reach! You have no ambition but to strum that banjo, roar ridiculous songs, fuss up like a tailor's dummy, and pester your comrades, or drag them down to Jerry's for the eats! You won't be earnest, you Human Cipher, Before you entered Bannister, you formed your ideas and ideals of campus life from colored posters, moving-pictures, magazine stories, and stage dramas like 'Brown of Harvard"; you have surely lived up, or down, to those ideals, you—"
"Them's harsh words, Butch!" joyously responded the grinning Hicks, unchastened, for he knew good Butch Brewster would not, for a fortune, have him forsake his care-free nature. "Thou loyal comrade of my happy campus years, what wouldst thou of me?—have me don sack-cloth and ashes, strike 'The Funeral March' on my golden lyre, and cry out in anguish, 'ai! ai! 'Nay, nay, a couple of nays; college years are all too brief; hence I shall, by my own original process, extract from them all the sunshine and happiness possible, and by my wonderful musical and vocal powers, bring joy to my colleagues, who—Ouch, Butch—look out for that nail, you inhuman elephant—"
Big Butch, at that juncture of Hicks' monologue, had effectively terminated it by leaning from the window, grasping his unsuspecting comrade by the scruff of the neck, and dragging him over the window-ledge, into the grub-shack, and the presence of Coach Corridan and Deacon Radford. Strenuous objection was registered, both by the futilely struggling Hicks, and a nail projecting from the sill, which caught in the Palm Beach trousers and ripped a long rent in them; fortunately, Hicks' anatomy escaped a similar fate.
"A ripping good move, eh-what?" chuckled Hicks, twisting like a contortionist, to view the damage done his vestiture, "Hello, what have we here?—the German field-map, by the Van Dyke beard of the Prophet! I bring the Kaiser's order, ham and eggs, and a cup of coffee. No, that's a mistake. General Hen Von Kluck, lead a brigade of submarines up yon hill to thunder the Russian fort! Von Hindering-Bug, send a flock of aeroplanes and Zeppelins to the Allied trenches, the enemy is shooting Russian caviare at—"
"Hicks," said Head Coach Corridan, smiling at Butch Brewster's indignation, "you are such a wonder at solving perplexing problems by your marvelous 'inspirations,' suppose you turn the scintillating searchlight of your colossal intellect upon the question that Bannister must solve, to produce a championship eleven!"
It was T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.'s, inveterate habit, whenever a baffling situation, or what the French call an "impasse" presented itself, to state with the utmost confidence, "Oh, just leave it to Hicks!" On most occasions, when he made this remark, accompanied by a swaggering braggadocio that never failed to make good Butch Brewster wrathful, the happy-go-lucky youth possessed not the slightest idea of how the problem was to be solved. He just uttered his rash promise, and then trusted to his needed inspiration to illuminate a way out! And, as the Bannister campus well knew, Hicks had solved more than one torturing question by an inspiration that flashed on his intellect, when all hope of a satisfactory solution seemed dead.
For example, in his Sophomore year, when the Freshman leader, James Roderick Perkins, that same Titian-haired Roddy who was now a bulwark at right end, became charged with a Napoleonic ambition, and organized a Freshman Equal Rights campaign, paralyzing Bannister football by refusing to allow Freshmen to try for athletic teams, unless their demands were granted. Hicks, when his inspiration finally smote him, smashed the Votes-for-Freshmen crusade, and quelled Roddy, Futilely racking his brain for a counter-attack, having blithely told the troubled campus, "Just leave it to Hicks," he had ceased to worry, and then the inspiration had come, By The Big Brotherhood of Bannister giving the upper-classmen full government over Freshmen, a scheme successfully carried through, the peril had been thwarted.
"I got a letter from Dad yesterday," began Hicks, somewhat irrelevantly, considering the Coach's remarks, "and he said—"
"'—Inclosed find the check you wrote for,'" quoth Deacon Radford, humorously. "'If you keep up this pace, I shall have to turn my steel mills to producing war munitions, to pay your college bills.' Say, Hicks, seriously, listen to our problem, and suggest what Coach Corridan should do."
While Hicks' athletic powers were known to equal those of the paralyzed oldest inhabitant of a Civil War Veterans' Home, the sunny youth knew football thoroughly; often he originated plays that the team worked out with success, and his suggestions were always weighed carefully by the football directors. So, after he had adjusted his lurid scarf at the correct angle, and gazed ruefully at his torn habiliments, the sunshiny Senior seated himself at the table, before the "war-map," and gave heed to the Coach.
"Here's the problem, Hicks," said the Slave-Driver, indicating the Bannister eleven, represented by the gold and green topped thumb-tacks. "From the line we lost Babe, a tackle, Heavy, a guard, and Jack Merritt, a star end. Now, Monty Merriweather will hold down Jack's place O. K.—l can shift Beef from right half to guard, and put Butch at right-half, while Bunch Bingham can take care of Babe's old berth at tackle. But I have no one to shoot in at full-back, when I shift Butch; you see, Hicks, my plan is to build an eleven that can execute old-time, line-smashing football, and up-to-date open play as well; I want fast ends and halves, with a snappy quarter, and I have them; also, the backfield is heavy enough for line-bucking, if I get my beefy full-back. I must have a big, heavy, fast player, a giant who simply can't be stopped when he hits the line. With Butch and Biff at halves, Deke at quarter. Roddy and Monty ends, and my heavy line—why, a ponderous, irresistible Hercules at full-back will—"
"Say!" grinned the irrepressible Hicks, as Coach Corridan warmed up to his vision, "you don't want much, Coach! Why don't you ask Ted Coy, the famous ex-Yale full-back, to give up his business and play the position for you? Maybe you can persuade Charlie Brickley, a fair sort of dropkicker, to quit coaching Hopkins, and kick a few goals for old Bannister! I get you, Coach—you want a fellow about the size of the Lusitania, made of structural steel, a Brobdingnagian Colossus who will guarantee to advance the ball fifteen yards per rush, or money refunded!
"Why, Coach, while you are wanting things, just wish for a chap who will play the entire game himself, taking the ball down the field, while the rest of the team are pushed along in rolling-chairs, while imbibing pink tea. Get a prodigy who will instill such terror into our rivals that instead of playing the schedule, Bannister will simply arrange with other teams to mark themselves down defeated, and then agree what the scores shall be."
"I knew it!" growled Butch Brewster, glowering at the jocular youth. "We should never have consulted him on this problem, for it is not one within his power to solve, even though he performed the miracle of talking seriously about it Now—"
"Now—" echoed Hicks, with pretended seriousness, "Coach, you just hand me the blue-prints and specifications of said Gargantuan Hercules, and I'll try to corrall just such a phenomenon as you desire. Never hesitate to consult me on such important matters, for I am ever-ready to cast aside my own multifarious duties, when my Alma Mater needs my mental assistance, or—"
"Hicks, are you crazy?" fleered Deacon Radford, moved to excitement, despite his great faith in the versatile youth. "Full-backs like that do not grow on trees; the only one I ever read of was Ole Skjarsen, in George Fitch's 'Siwash College Stories,' and he was purely fictitious. We know you have accomplished some great things by your 'inspirations,' but as for this—"
"Just leave it to Hicks" quoth the irrepressible youth, swaggering toward the door with an affected nonchalant self-confidence that aroused Butch to wrath, and vastly amused his companions. "I'll admit a human juggernaut like Coach Corridan dreams of will be hard to round up, but, I'll have an inspiration soon. Don't worry about your old eleven, your problem will be solved, and you will have a team that can play fifty-seven varieties of football. Raw revolver, my comrades."
When the graceless T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., had sauntered gracefully out of the grub-shack, big Butch Brewster, almost exploding with suppressed wrath, stared at Slave-Driver Corridan and staid Deacon Radford a full minute; then he grinned,
"That—Hicks!" he murmured, struggling against a desire to laugh. "What a ridiculous prophecy! 'Just leave it to Hicks!' Well, that means the problem goes unsolved, for though I confess he is brilliant, and his so-called 'inspirations' have helped old Bannister; when it comes to rushing out and lassoing a smashing. Herculean full-back—bah!"
Ten minutes later, when Coach Corridan and the Gold and Green squad climbed the bluff to the field back of Camp Bannister, for morning signal drill, their last memory was of T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., arrayed in radiant vestiture, his chair tilted against the bunkhouse—the chords of the banjo, and his foghorn voice drifting to them on the warm September air:
"Oh, father and mother pay all the bills (plunk-plunk) And we have all the fun (plunkety-plunk) With the money that we spend in college life!"
Two hours afterward, as a tired, perspiring squad scrambled down the bluff, and made for the cool waters of Lake Conowingo, a mysterious silence, like a mighty wave, literally surged toward them. Camp Bannister seemed deserted, the sun was still shining, the birds sang as cheerily as ever, but instinctively the collegians felt an indescribable loneliness, a sense of tremendous loss.
"Hicks!" shouted Butch Brewster, loudly, his voice shattering the stillness. "Hicks—ahoy! I say, Hicks—"
Old Hinky-Dink, a letter in his hand, hobbled from the cook-tent toward them; like a sinister harbinger of evil he advanced, grinning deprecatingly at the squad:
"Mistah Hicks am gone!" he announced importantly. "He done gib me fo' bits to row him ober to de village, to cotch de noon 'spress fo' Philadelphy! Heah am a letter what he lef'—"
Big Butch Brewster, to whom the billet-doux was addressed in T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.'s, familiar scrawl, tore open the envelope, and while the squad listened, he read aloud the message left by that sunny-souled youth;
"Coach Corridan will have to use the alarm clock from now on! I'm called away on business. See that my stuff gets to Bannister O.K. Stow it in the room next to yours. I'll be back at college some time in the next century. Give my adieux to Coach Corridan and the squad.
"T. HAVILAND HICKS, JR.
"P.S.: Tell Coach Corridan he should worry—not! I'm hot on the trail of a fullback that will make Ted Coy at his coyest look like the paralyzed inmate of an old man's home. Just leave it to Hicks!"
HICKS' PRODIGIOUS PRODIGY
"Has anybody here seen our Hicks? H-i-c-k-s! Has anybody here seen our Hicks? If you've seen him, answer, 'Yes!' He's tall and slim, and he wears a grin, And his banjo-thumping is a sin. Has anybody here seen our Hicks— Hicks—and his old banjo?"
Captain Butch Brewster, big Beef McNaughton, the Phillyloo Bird—that flamingo-like Senior—and little Theophilus Opperdyke, the timorous boner whom Bannister College called the "Human Encyclopedia," roosted on the sacred Senior Fence, between the Gymnasium and the Administration Building. A gloomy silence, like a somber mantle, enshrouded the four members of '19, as they listened to a rollicking parody on, "Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?" chanted by some Juniors in Nordyke, with T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., as the object of solicitude. Nor did the melancholy youths respond to the queries hurled down at them from the dormitories' windows:
"Say, Butch Brewster, where is that crazy Hicks?"
"Beef, ain't our Hicks a-comin' back here no more?"
"Hello, Phillyloo, any word from our Hicks yet?"
"Ahoy there, Theophilus, where is Hicks, the Missing?"
The seven-thirty study-hour bell was ringing, its mellow chimes sounding from the Administration Building tower. From the windows of the dormitories gleams of light shot athwart the darkness. Over in Creighton Hall, the abode of Freshmen, a silence reigned, but in Smithson, where the Sophomores roomed, Nordyke, home of the Juniors, and Bannister, haunt of the solemn Seniors, pandemonium obtained. In these dorm. rooms and corridors that night, just as in the class-rooms, or on the campus, and Bannister Field that day, there was but one topic. Whenever two students met, came the query inevitable:
"Where is Hicks? Isn't Hicks coming back this year?"
The Freshmen, bewildered, quite naturally, at the furore made over one missing student, asked, "Who is Hicks?" Seeking information from upper-classmen they received innumerable tales, in the nature of Iliad and Odyssey, concerning T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.; they heard of his campus exploits, such as his originating The Big Brotherhood of Bannister, and they laughed, at recitals of his athletic fiascos. They were told of his inevitably sunny nature, his loyal comradeship, his generous disposition, and as a result, the Freshmen, too, became intensely interested in the all-important campus problem: "Where is T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.?"
Little Theophilus Opperdyke, whose big-rimmed spectacles, high forehead, and bushy hair gave him an intensely owlish appearance, sighed tremendously, stared solemnly at his class-mates, and became the author of a most astounding statement: "I—I can't study," quavered the "boner," he whose tender devotion to his books was a campus tradition, and whose loyalty to his firm friend, the blithesome Hicks, was as that of Damon to Pythias, "I just can't care about my studies, without Hicks here! Somehow, it—it doesn't seem like old times, on the campus."
"I should say not!" ejaculated the Phillyloo Bird, sepulchrally, his string-bean length draped with extreme decorative effect on the Senior Fence, "Life at old Bannister without T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., is about as interesting as 'The Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture!' Prexy thought he started the college on its Marathon three days ago, but Bannister will not be officially opened until Hicks stands by his window some study-hour, twangs that old banjo, and shatters the campus quietude with a ballad roared in his fog-horn voice!"
Big Butch Brewster, enshrouded in melancholy, instinctively gazed up at the windows of the room T. Haviland Hicks, Jr. had reserved on the third floor of Bannister Hall, the Senior dorm., as if he fully expected to behold the missing youth materialize. There, in lonely grandeur, waited the sunny-souled Senior's vast aggregation of trunks, crates, and packing boxes, together with Hicks' baggage brought down from Camp Bannister. The bothersome banjo had disappeared at the same time the youthful Caruso imitated the Arabs, folding his figurative tent, and stealing away.
"It's a strange paradox," boomed Butch Brewster, finding that no Hicks appeared at the window, "but for three years Bannister has stormed at Hicks for bothering us during study-hour, or at midnight, with his saengerfest, and now I'd give anything to see him up there, and to hear that banjo, and his songs! It is just as if the sun doesn't shine on the campus, when T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., is away!"
Bannister College had been running for three days "on one cylinder," as the Phillyloo Bird quaintly phrased it, on account of the gladsome Hicks' mysterious absence. Not a word had the Head Coach, Captain Brewster, the football squad, or any of the collegians received from the blithesome youth, since the billet-doux he left with old Hinky-Dink at Camp Bannister. Old students, returning to the campus for another golden year, invaded Hicks' room in Bannister, ready to enjoy the cozy den of that jolly Senior, but they encountered silence and desolation. No one had the slightest knowledge of where the cheery Hicks could be; they missed his singing and banjo strumming, his pestersome ways, his cheerful good nature, his cozy quarters always open house to all, and his Hicks' Personally Conducted tours downtown to Jerry's for those celebrated Beefsteak Busts.
A telegram to Mr. Thomas Haviland Hicks, Sr., in Pittsburgh, sent by the worried Butch Brewster, had brought this concise response:
No knowledge of Thomas' whereabouts. He should be at Bannister.
"Queer," reflected Beef McNaughton, shifting his bulk on the protesting fence. "We know Hicks will be back, for all his luggage is stowed away in his room, and we are sure he is giving us all this mystery just for a joke—he dearly loves to arrange a sensational and dramatic climax—but we just can't get used to his not being on the campus. When Theophilus Opperdyke can't study, it's high time the S.O.S. signal was sent to T. Haviland Hicks, Jr."
"That is not the worst of it," growled Captain Butch Brewster, his arm across little Theophilus' shoulders. "The football squad misses Hicks, Beef. For the past two seasons he has sat at the training-table, his invariable good-humor, his Cheshire cat grin, and his sunny ways have kept the fellows in fine mental trim so they haven't worried over the game. But now, just as soon as he left Camp Bannister, the barometer of their spirits went down to zero and every meal at training-table is a funeral. Coach Corridan can't inject any pep into the scrimmages, and he says if Hicks doesn't return soon, Bannister's chances of the Championship are gone."
"As Theophilus says," responded the gloomy Beef, "we just can't get used to his not being here. We miss his good-nature, his sunny smile, the jolly crowds in his cozy quarters—why, the campus is talking of nothing but Hicks—and I don't know what Bannister will do after Hicks graduates—shut down, I suppose!"
"Well, you know," grinned the Phillyloo Bird, his cadaverous structure humped over like a turkey on the roost, "our Hicks hath sallied forth on the trail of a full-back, a Hercules who will smash the other elevens to infinitesimal smithereens! He told the squad to just leave it to Hicks, so don't be surprised if he is making flying trips to Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, striving to corral some embryo Ted Coy. Remember how Hicks often fulfills his rash prophecies!"
"A Herculean full-back—Bah!" fleered Butch, for all the campus knew of T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.'s, extremely rash vow to unearth a "phenom." "The truth of it is, fellows. Hicks has failed to locate such a wonder as Coach Corridac outlined, for there ain't no such animal! He doesn't like to come back to Bannister without having made good his promise, without that Gargantuan giant he vowed to round up for the Gold and Green."
Just then, as if to substantiate Butch's jeering statement, a youth wearing the uniform and cap of The Western Union Telegraph Company and advancing across the campus at that terrific speed always exhibited by messenger-boys, appeared in the offing. Periscoping the four Seniors on the fence, he navigated his course accordingly and pulling a yellow envelope from his cap, he queried, in charmingly chaste English:
"Say, kin youse tell me where to find a feller name o' Brewster, wot's cap'n o' de football bunch?"
"Right here, Little Nemo," advised the Phillyloo Bird, solemnly. "Hast thou any messages from New York for me? John D. Rockefeller promised to wire me whether or not to purchase war-stocks."
The Phillyloo Bird, at this stage of his monologue, was interrupted by a yell that would have caused a full-blooded Choctaw Indian to turn pale. This came from good Butch Brewster, who, having signed for the message, and imagined all manner of catastrophes, from world-wars, earthquakes, pestilence and loss of wealth, down to bad news from Hicks, after the fashion of those receiving telegrams but seldom, had scanned the yellow slip. Never before, or afterward, not even when the luckless Butch fell in love, and T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., assisted Cupid, did the pachydermic Butch act so insanely as on this occasion.
"Whoop-eee! Yee-ow! Wow-wow-wow!" howled the supposedly solemn Senior, tumbling from the Senior fence and rolling on the campus like a decapitated rooster. "Hip-hip-hooray! Ring the bell, Beef, get the fellows out, have the Band ready, Oh, where is Coach Corridan? Read it, Beef, Theophilus, Phillyloo. Oh, Hicks is coming and he's got—"
It is possible that little Theophilus, who firmly believed that big Butch Brewster had gone emotionally insane, would have fled for help, but at that juncture members of the Gold and Green football squad, with Head Coach Patrick Henry Corridan, appeared, marching funereally toward the Gym., where a signal quiz was booked for seven forty-five. Beholding the paralyzing spectacle of their captain apparently in paroxysms on the grass, Hefty Hollingsworth, Biff Pemberton, Monty Merriweather and Pudge Langdon hurled themselves on his tonnage, while Roddy Perkins sat on his head, and wrested the telegram from his grasp,
"Call up Matteawan," shouted Roddy, unfolding the slip, "Butch is getting barmy in the dome, he—Oh, Coach, fellows—great joy! Just heed."
James Roderick Perkins, as excited as a Senator about to make his first speech, read aloud the telegram, on which the heedless Hicks had triple rates:
"Coming 8.30 P. M. express today. Discharge entire eleven—got whole team in one. Knock out partitions between five rooms. Make space for Thor, the Prodigious Prodigy! Leave it to Hicks!
"T. HAVILAND HICKS, JR."
"Hicks is coming!" shrieked the Phillyloo Bird, soaring down from the Senior Fence like a condor. "He will be here in less than an hour; he sent this wire just before his train left Philadelphia. Money is no object, when T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., wants to mystify old Bannister."
"'Discharge entire eleven,'" quoth Butch Brewster, having somewhat subdued his frenzy. "'Got whole team in one—knock out partitions between five rooms—make space for Thor, the Prodigious Prodigy!' Now, what in the world has that lunatical Hicks done? Who can Thor be?"
Tug Cardiff, Buster Brown, Bunch Bingham, Scoop Sawyer, little Skeet Wigglesworth, Don Carterson, and Cherub Challoner, not having given their brawn to the subduing of Butch, now kindly donated their brain, in all manner of weird suggestions. According to their various surmises, T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., had lured the Strong Man away from Barnum and Bailey's Circus, had in some way reincarnated the mythical Norse god, Thor, had hired some Greco-Roman wrestler, or by other devices too numerous and ridiculous to mention, had produced a full-back according to Coach Corridan's blue-prints and specifications.
Big Beef McNaughton, seized with an inspiration that supplied locomotive-power to his huge frame, lumbered into the Gym., and soon appeared with monster megaphones, used in "rooting" for Gold and Green teams, which he handed out to his comrades. Then the riotous squad, at his suggestion, sprinted for the Quad., that inner quadrangle or court around which the four class dormitories, forming the sides of a square, were built; anyone desiring an audience could be sure of it here, since the collegians in all four dorms. could rush to the Quadrangle side and look down from the windows. In the Quadrangle, under the brilliant arc-lights, the exuberant youths paused,
"One—two—three—let 'er go!" boomed Beef, and the football squad, in basso profundo, aided by the Phillyloo Bird's uncertain tenor, and Theophilus' quavery treble, roared in a tremendous vocal explosion that shook the dormitories:
"Hicks is coming! Hicks is coming! Everybody out on the campus! Get ready to welcome our T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.! Hicks is bringing Bannister's full-back—a Prodigious Prodigy!"
Windows rattled up, heads were thrust out, a fusillade of questions bombarded the squad in the Quadrangle below; from the three upper-class dormitories erupted hordes of howling, shouting youths, and soon the Quad. was filled with a singing, yelling, madly happy crowd. The Bannister Band, that famous campus musical organization, following a time-honored habit of playing on every possible occasion, gladsomely tuned up and soon the noise was deafening, while study-hour, as prescribed by the Faculty, was forgotten.
"Everybody on the campus, at once!" Butch Brewster, Master-of-Ceremonies, boomed through his megaphone, having aroused excitement to the highest pitch by reading Hicks' telegram. "Old Dan Flannagan's jitney-bus will soon heave into sight. Let the Band blare, make a big noise. Let's show Hicks how glad we are to have him back to old Bannister."
It is historically certain that Mr. Napoleon Bonaparte returning from Jena and Austerlitz, Mr. Julius Caesar, home at Rome from his Conquests, or Mr. Alexander the Great (Conqueror, not National League pitcher) never received such a welcome as did T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., from his Bannister comrades that night. To the excited students, massed on the campus before the Gym. awaiting his arrival, every second seemed a century; everybody talked at once until the hubbub rivaled that of a Woman's Suffrage Convention. Thomas Haviland Hicks, Jr., was actually returning to old Bannister; and he was bringing "The Prodigious Prodigy," whatever that was, with him. Knowing the cheery Senior's intense love of doing the dramatic and his great ambition to startle his Alma Mater with some sensational stunt, they could hardly wait for old Dan Flannagan's jitney-bus to roll up the driveway,
"Here he comes!" shrieked, little Skeet Wigglesworth, an excitable Senior, who had climbed a tree to keep watch. "Here comes our Hicks!"
"Honk—Honk!" To the incessant blaring of a raucous horn, old Dan Flannagan's jitney-bus moved up the driveway. The genial Irish Jehu, who for over twenty years had transported Bannister collegians and alumni to and from College Hill in a ramshackle hack drawn by Lord Nelson, an antiquated, somnambulistic horse, had yielded to modern invention at last. Lord Nelson having become defunct during vacation, Old Dan, with a collection taken up by several alumni at Commencement, had bought a battered Ford, and constructed therewith a jitney-bus. This conveyance was fully as rattle-trap in appearance as the traditional hack had been, but the returning collegians hailed it with glee.
"All hail Hicks!" howled Butch Brewster, beside himself with joy, "Altogether—the Bannister yell for—Hicks!"
With half the collegians giving the yell, a number shouting indiscriminately, the Bannister Band blaring furiously, "Behold, The Conquering Hero Comes," with the youths a yelling, howling, shrieking, dancing mass, old Dan Flannagan, adding his quota of noises with the Claxon, brought his bus to a stop. This was a hilarious spectacle in itself, for on its sides the Bannister students had painted:
HENRY FORD'S "PIECE-OF-A-SHIP," THE DOVE! ALL RIDING IN THIS JIT DO SO AT THEIR OWN RISK! TEN CENTS FOR A JOY-RIDE TO COLLEGE HILL! YES, IT'S A FORD! WHAT DO YOU CARE? GET ABOARD!
On the roof of "The Dove," or "The Crab," as the collegians called it when it skidded sideways, perched precariously that well-known, beloved youth, T. Haviland Hicks, Jr. He clutched his pestersome banjo and was vigorously strumming the strings and apparently howling a ballad, lost in the unearthly turmoil. As the jitney-bus stopped, the grinning Hicks arose, and from his lofty, position made a profound bow.
"Speech! Speech! Speech!" A mighty shout arose, and Hicks raised his hand for silence, which was immediately delivered to him.
"Fellows, one and all," he shouted, a mist before his eyes, for his impulsive soul was touched by the ovation, "I—I am glad to be back! Say—I—I—well, I'm glad to be back—that's all!"
At this masterly oration, which, despite its brevity, contained volumes of feeling, the Bannister students went wild—for a longer period than any political convention ever cheered a nominated candidate, they cheered T. Haviland Hicks, Jr. "Roar—roar—roar—roar!" in deafening sound-waves, the noise swept across the campus; never had football idol, baseball hero, or any athletic demigod, in all Bannister's history, been accorded such a tremendous ovation.
"Fellows," called T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., climbing down from his precarious perch, "stand back; I have brought to Bannister the 'Prodigious Prodigy.' I have rounded up a full-back who will beat Ballard all by himself. Behold the new Gold and Green football eleven, 'Thor'!"
From the grinning Dan Flannagan's jitney-bus, like a Russian bear charging from its den, lumbered a being whose enormous bulk fairly astounded the speechless youths; Butch Brewster, Beef McNaughton, Tug Cardiff, Bunch Bingham, Buster Brown, and Pudge Langdon were popularly regarded as the last word in behemoths, but this "Thor" dwarfed them, towered above them like a Colossus over Lilliputians. He was a youth, and yet a veritable Hercules. Over six feet he stood, with a massive head, covered with tousled white hair, a powerful neck, broad shoulders, a vast chest. To a judge of athletes, he would tip the scales at a hundred and ninety pounds, all solid muscle, for that superb physique held not an ounce of superfluous flesh.
"Hicks," said Head Coach Patrick Henry Corridan, gazing at the mountain of muscle, "if size means anything, you have brought old Bannister an entire football squad! What splendid material to train for the Big Games, why—he will be irresistible!"
QUOTING SCOOP SAWYER'S LETTER
"I didn't raise my Ford to be a jitney— To run the streets, and stay out late at night! Who dares to put a jitney sign, upon it— And send my peace-ship out for fares to fight?"
T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., standing by his open window at 3 P. M. one afternoon a week after his sensational return to Bannister College, with the "Prodigious Prodigy" in tow, indulged in the soul-satisfying pastime of twanging his banjo, and roaring, in his subterranean voice, a parody on "I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a Soldier." It was actually the first Caruso-like outburst of the pestersome youth that year, but his saengerfest brought vociferous howls of protest from campus and dormitories:
"Bow-wow-wow! The Grand Opery season is starting!"
"Sing some records for a talking-machine company, Hicks!"
"Kill that tom-cat! Listen to the back-fence musicale!"
"Say, Hicks—we'll take your word for that noise!"
On the Gym. steps, loafing a few moments before jogging out to Bannister Field for a strenuous scrimmage under the personal supervision of Slave-Driver Corridan, the Gold and Green football squad had gathered. It was from these stalwart gridiron gladiators that the caustic criticism of T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.'s, vocal atrocities emanated, and the imitation of a mournful hound by "Ichabod," the skyscraping Senior, was indeed phenomenal. Added to the howls, whistles, jeers, and shouts of the squad, were like condemnations from other collegians, sky-larking on the campus, or in the dorms.
"At that," grinned Captain Butch Brewster happily, "it surely makes me feel jubilant to hear Hicks' foghorn voice shattering the echoes, with his banjo strumming disturbing the peace—for which offense it shall soon be arrested. We can truly say that old Bannister is now officially opened for another year, for T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., has performed his annual rite—"
"Right—!" scoffed big Pudge Langdon, indignantly, as he gazed up at the happy-go-lucky youth, at the window of his room on the third-floor, campus side, of Bannister Hall, "Hicks ought to be tarred and feathered; there is nothing right in the way he has acted since his return to college! He struts around like Herman, the Master-Magician, and all the fellows fully expect to see him produce white rabbits from his cap, or make varicolored flags out of his handkerchief."
"We ought to toss him in a blanket," stormed Beef McNaughton, in ludicrous rage. "Ever since he mystified Bannister by going out and corralling a Hercules who is an entire eleven in himself, Hicks has maintained that sphinx-like silence as to how he achieved the feat, and he swaggers around, enshrouded in mystery! All we know is that 'Thor' is John Thorwald, of Norwegian descent. If we ask him for information, that wretch Hicks has him trained to say, 'Ask the little fellow, Hicks!'"
T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., in truth, had acted in a most reprehensible manner since that memorable night when he brought "Thor, the Prodigious Prodigy," to the campus. Not that he ceased to be the same sunny-souled, popular and friendly youth. The collegians, happy at finding his room open-house again, flocked to his cozy quarters, Freshmen fell under the spell of his generous nature, his Beef-Steak Busts, down at Jerry's were nightly occurrences, and he was the same Hicks as of old. But, after the dramatic manner in which Hicks had mysteriously made good the rash vow uttered at Camp Bannister and had brought to Coach Corridan a blond-haired giant who seemed destined to perform prodigies at full-back, the sunny Senior had evidently labored under the delusion that he was "Kellar, The Great Magician."
Instead of relieving the tortured curiosity of the students, wild to know how and where Hicks had unearthed this physical Hercules, who in every way filled the details of Head Coach Corridan's "blue-prints," T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., enjoying to the full this novel method of torturing his comrades, made a baffling mystery of the affair, much to the indignation of his friends.
"Just leave it to Hicks," he would say, when the Bannister youths cajoled, implored, threatened, or argued. "Thor is eligible to play four years of football at old Bannister. I call him Thor, after the great Norse god, Thor; he is of Norwegian descent. That is all of the Billion-Dollar Mystery I can disclose; ten thousand dollars offered for the correct solution."
"Here comes Scoop Sawyer," said Monty Merriweather, as that Senior, waving his arms in air, catapulted from Bannister Hall, and strode toward the squad on the Gym. steps; his appearance registered wrath, in photo-play parlance, and on reaching his comrades he immediately acquainted them with its cause.
"Listen to that Hicks!" he exploded, gesticulating with a sheaf of papers. "Hicks, the mocking-bird! He is mocking us—with his 'Billion-Dollar Mystery!' Say—here I am writing to Jack Merritt; he played football four years for old Bannister; he was captain of the Gold and Green eleven; last Commencement he graduated, and the last thing he said to me was, 'Scoop, old pal, write to me next fall, tell me everything about the football season; keep me posted as to new material!' Everything—keep him posted as to new material—Bah! If I write that Hicks has brought a fellow he calls 'Thor,' who spreads the regulars over the field, Jack will want to know the details, and—that villainous Hicks won't divulge his dread secret!"
At this moment, Scoop Sawyer, so-called because he was ambitious to be a newspaper reporter, after graduation, and for his humorous articles in the Bannister Weekly, had his intense wrath soothed by that which has "power to soothe the savage breast"; T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., displaying a wonderful originality by composing, then chanting, his parody, concluded the chorus roaring lustily, to a rollicking banjo accompaniment:
"If street car companies gave seats to all patrons The strap-hangers in jitneys would not ride. There'd be no jits. today If Ford owners would say, I didn't raise my Ford to be a—jitney!"
"That is too much!" raged Captain Butch Brewster, facing his excited colleagues. "Come on, fellows, we'll invade Hicks' room, read him Scoop's letter to Jack Merritt, and make him solve the Mystery! We're done with diplomacy; now, we'll deliver the ultimatum; when the squad returns from scrimmage, T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., will tell us all about Thor, or be tossed in a blanket! Are you with me?"
"We are ahead of you!" howled Roddy Perkins, leading a wild charge for the entrance to Bannister Hall. Following him up the two flights of stairs with thunderous tread came Butch, Beef, Monty, Biff, Hefty, Pudge, Tug, Ichabod, Bunch, Buster, Bus Norton, and several second-team players, Cherub, Chub Chalmers, Don, Skeet, and Scoop Sawyer with his letter. With a terrific, blood-chilling clatter, and hideous howls, the Hicks-quelling Expedition roared down the third corridor of Bannister, and surged into the room of that tantalizing T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.!
"Safety first!" shrieked that cheery collegian, stowing his banjo in the closet and making a strenuous but futile effort to dive head-first beneath the bed, being forcibly restrained by Beef, who clung to his left ankle. "Say, to what am I indebted for the honor of this call? Why, when I got back to Bannister, you fellows gushed, 'Oh, we're so glad you're back, Hicks, old top; we missed even your saengerfests,' and when I start one—"
"Hicks," pronounced Butch Brewster grimly, holding the genial offender by the scruff of the neck, "you tantalizing, aggravating, irritating, lunatical, conscienceless degenerate! You assassin of Father Time, you disturber of the peace, heed! Scoop Sawyer is writing to Jack Merritt, to tell about the football team, and Bannister's chances of the Championship; he wants to tell Jack all about this Thor! Now, you have acted like Herman-Kellar-Thurston long enough, and hear our final word. Read Scoop's letter, and if when you finish its perusal you fail to give us full information, and answer all questions about Thor—"
"The football team will toss you in a blanket until you do!" finished Monty Merriweather, "We intended to wait until after the scrimmage, but Butch evidently believes we should end your bothersome mystery as once, and—"
"'Curiosity killed the cat!'" grinned T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.; then seeing the avenues and boulevards of escape were closed, but fighting for time, "let me peruse said missive indited by our literarily overbalanced Scoop. I am reluctant to dispel the clouds of mystery, but—"
Scoop Sawyer thrust the typewritten pages of the letter—composed on the battered old typewriter in the editorial sanctum of the Bannister Weekly—into Hicks' grasp and with a grin, that blithesome youth read:
Bannister College, Sept, 27.
DEAR OLD JACK:
There is so much to tell you, old pal, that I scarcely know where to start, but you want to know about the football eleven, so I'll write about T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., and his 'Billion-Dollar Mystery,' as he calls it; about Thor, the Prodigious Prodigy. You well know what a scatter-brained wretch Hicks is, and how he dearly loves to plot dramatic climaxes—to mystify old Bannister. Just now Hicks has the campus as wrathful as it is possible to be with that lovable youth; he has originated a great mystery, and achieved a seemingly impossible feat, and instead of explaining it, he swaggers around like a Hindoo mystic enshrouded in mystery and the fellows are wild enough to tar and feather the incorrigible villain!
To get off to a sprint-start, up in Camp Bannister, before college opened, when the squad was in training camp, Butch Brewster says that Coach Corridan one day, before Hicks, expressed a fervid ambition to find a huge, irresistible fullback—
Here the chronicle must hang fire, while T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., grinning at the wrath his mysterious behavior aroused, peruses those sections of Scoop Sawyer's epistle telling of two scenes already described; first, the one in the Camp Bannister grub-shack, where Head Coach Corridan blue-printed the Gargantuan athlete he desired, and the blithesome Hicks confidently requested that the Herculean task be left to him; second, the scene of intense excitement on the campus the night that the missing Hicks returned personally conducting that mountain of muscle, the blond-haired Thor.
Having grinned at these descriptions, the pestiferous Hicks scanned a picturesque description by Scoop of the events that transpired between that memorable night and the present invasion of the sunny Senior's room by the indignant squad.
—Naturally, Jack, old Bannister was intensely curious to know who this "Thor" could be, and how Hicks unearthed such a giant. But, instead of swaggering a trifle, as he inevitably does, and saying, 'Oh, I told you just to leave it to Hicks!' then telling all about it, after accomplishing what everyone believed a ridiculously impossible quest, he maintains that provokingly mysterious silence, and John Thorwald (we know his name, anyway) stolidly refers us to Hicks. So where Thor originated or how under the sun Hicks got on his trail, after making his rash vow to corral a mighty fullback, is a deep, dark mystery.
Now for Thor himself. Words cannot describe that Prodigious Prodigy; he must be seen to be believed! We do know that he is John Thorwald, and of distinctly Norwegian descent, so that calling him after the mythic Norse god is extremely appropriate. And he is reminiscent of the great Thor, with his vast strength and prowess. Thanks to T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.'s, love of mystery, and of tantalizing old Bannister, we know nothing of Thorwald's past, but we are sure he has lived and toiled among men, to possess that powerful build. I can't describe him, old man, without resorting to exaggeration, for ordinary words and phrases are utterly inadequate with Thor! Conjure up a vision of Gulliver among the Lilliputians and you can picture him towering over us. He is a Viking of old, with his fair features and blond hair. Probably twenty-five years old, he has a powerful frame and prodigious strength, he dwarfs such behemoths as Butch and Beef, and makes such insignificant mortals as little Theophilus and myself seem like insects!
Thor is so big, Jack, that when he gets in a room, he crowds everyone into the corridor, and fills it alone. No wonder Hicks telegraphed to knock out the partitions between five rooms to make space for Thor! When he stands on the campus he blots out several sections of scenery, and the college disappears, giving the impression he has swallowed it. Thor is a slow-minded being, but possessed of a grim determination. To get an idea into his mind requires a blackboard and Chautauqua lecturer, but once he masters it, he never lets go; so it will be with football signals, once let him grasp a play, he will never be confused. He is simply a huge, stolid giant. He has a bulldog purpose to get an education, and nothing else matters. As for college spirit, the glad comradeship of the campus, he has no time for it; he pays no attention to the fellows at all, only to Hicks.
His devotion to that wretch is pathetic! He follows Hicks around like a huge mastiff after a terrier, or an ocean leviathan towed by a tug-boat; he seems absolutely helpless without T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., and so we have a daily Hicks' personally conducted tour of Thor to interest us. Briefly, Jack, John Thorwald is a slow-moving, slow-minded, grimly bulldog giant, who has come to Bannister to study, and as for any other phase of campus existence, he has never awakened to it!
Now for the football story: Well, the day after Hicks' sensational arrival, which I described, Coach Corridan, Captain Butch Brewster, Beef, Buster, Pudge, Monty, and Roddy with yours truly, went to Thor's room in Creighton just before football practice. We found that Colossus, who had matriculated as a Freshman, aided by Hicks, patiently masticating mental food as served by Ovid. Coach Corridan said, 'Come on, Thorwald, over to the Gym.; we'll fix you out with togs, if we can get two suits big enough to make one for your bulk! Ever play the game?' 'I play some,' rumbled Thor stolidly, never raising his eyes from his Latin. 'Don't bother me, I want to study. I have not time for such foolishness. I am here to study, to get an education!' 'But,' urged the coach earnestly, 'you must play football for your Alma Mater, for old Bannister. Why, you—you must, that's all!' Thor gazed at Hicks questioningly—I forgot to add that insect's name—and asked, 'Is it so, Hicks? I got to play for the college?' And when Hicks grinned, 'Sure, Thor, it must be did. Bannister expects you to smear the other teams over the landscape,' that blond Norwegian Viking said, 'Well, then, I play.'
All Bannister turned out to behold the "Prodigious Prodigy" on the football field. Somewhere—Hicks won't divulge where—Thor has learned the rudiments of the game. With that bulldog tenacity of his, he has learned them well. Hence he was ready for the scrubs, and in the practice game it was a veritable slaughter of the innocents. The 'Varsity could not stop Thor. Remember 'Ole' Skjarsen, the big Swede of George Fitch's 'Siwash College' tales? Thor, after the ten minutes required to teach him a play, would take the ball and just wade through the regulars for big gains. The only way to stop him was for the entire eleven to cling affectionately to his bulk, and then he transported them several yards. He is a phenom, a veritable Prodigious Prodigy, and maybe old Bannister isn't wild with enthusiasm. His development will be slow but sure, and by the time the big games for the championship come, he will be a whole team in himself. Right now he goes through daily scrimmage as solemnly as if performing a sacred rite. He doesn't thrill with college spirit, but as for football—
Leaving Hicks to read the rest of Scoop Sawyer's long missive, terminating with indignant condemnation of the sunny youth's love of mystery, the terrific enthusiasm roused at old Bannister by the daily appearance on Bannister Field of Thor, and his irresistible marches through the 'Varsity, must be chronicled and explained.
Not for five seasons, not since the year before Hicks, Pudge, Butch, Beef and the others of 1919 were Freshmen, had the Gold and Green corraled that greatest glory, The State Intercollegiate Football Championship! In Captain Butch's Sophomore year, he had flung his bulk into the fray, training, sacrificing, fighting like a Trojan, only to see the pennant lost by a scant three inches, as Jack Merritt's forty-yard drop-kick for the goal that would have won the Championship struck the cross-bar and bounded back into the field. And the past season-old Bannister could still vision that tragic scene of the biggest game.
The students could picture Captain Brewster, with the Bannister eleven a few yards from Ballard's goal-line, and the touchdown that would give the Gold and Green that supreme glory. One minute to play; Deacon Radford had given Butch the pigskin, and like a berserker, he fought entirely through the scrimmage. But a kick on the head had blinded him, in the melee—free of tacklers, with the goal-line, victory, and the Championship so near, he staggered, reeled blindly, crashed into an upright, and toppled backward, senseless on the field, while the Referee's whistle announced the end of the game, and glory to Ballard. Even then, after the first terrible shock of the loss, of the cruel blow fate dealt the Gold and Green two successive seasons, the slogan was: "Next year—Bannister will win the Championship—next year!"
It was now "next year!" Losing only Jack Merritt, Babe McCabe and Heavy Hughes from the line-up, and having Monty Merrlweather and Bunch Bingham, fully as good, Coach Corridan's Gold and Green eleven, before the season started, seemed a better fighting machine than even the one of the year before. But when the irrepressible T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., in some mysterious fashion making good his rash vow to produce a smashing full-back that can't be stopped, towed that stolid, blond Colossus, Thor, to old Bannister, enthusiasm broke all limits!
Mass-meetings were held every night. Speeches by Coaches, Captain, players, Faculty, and students, aroused the campus to the highest pitch; every day, the entire student-body, with The Bannister Band, turned out on Bannister Field to cheer the eleven, and to watch the Prodigious Prodigy perform valorous deeds, like the god Thor. "Bannister College—State Championship!" was the cry, and with the giant Thor to present an irresistible catapulting that could not be stopped, the Gold and Green exultantly awaited the big games with Hamilton and Ballard.
And yet, the stolid, unemotional, unawakened Thor, on whom every hope of the Championship was based, whom all Bannister came out to watch every day, practiced as he studied, doggedly, silently. It was evident to all that he hated the grind, that he wanted to quit, that his heart was not in the game, but for some cause, he drove his Herculean body ahead, and could not be stopped!
"Now, you abandoned wretch," said Butch Brewster grimly, as the happy-go-lucky Hicks finished Scoop's letter, and glanced about him wildly seeking a way of escape, "in one minute you will tell us all about John Thorwald, alias 'Thor,' or be tossed sky-high in a blanket by the football squad, and please believe me, you'll break all altitude records!"
"Spare me, you banditti!" pleaded Hicks, reluctant to cease torturing Bannister with his Billion-Dollar Mystery, yet equally unwilling to aviate from a blanket heaved by the husky athletes. "Why seek ye to question the ways of T. Haviland Hicks, Jr.? You have your Prodigious Prodigy—your smashing full-back is distributing the 'Varsity over the scenery with charming nonchalance that promises dire catastrophe for other teams, once he makes the regulars, so—"
At that dramatic moment, just as Butch Brewster glanced at Hicks' alarm-clock, to start the minute of grace, a startling interruption saved the gladsome youth from having to make a decision. A heavy, creaking tread shook the corridor, and the squad beheld, looming up in the doorway, Thor. He was not in football togs, and as he started to speak his fair face as stolid and expressionless as that of a sphinx, Captain Butch Brewster stepped toward him.
"Thor!" he exclaimed, seizing the blond Colossus by the arm, "You aren't ready for the scrimmage; hustle over to the Gym. and get on your suit."
But John Thorwald, as passive of feature as though he announced something of the most infinitesimal importance, and were not hurling a bomb-shell whose explosion, was to shake old Bannister terrifically, spoke in a matter-of-fact manner: "I shall not play football—any more,"
"What!" Every collegian in Hicks' room, including that dazed producer of the Prodigious Prodigy, chorused the exclamation; to them it was as stunning a shock as the nation would suffer if its President calmly announced, "I'm tired of being President of the United States. I shall not report for work tomorrow." Bannister College, ever since the night that Thor arrived on the campus, had talked or thought of nothing but how this huge, blond-haired Hercules would bring the Championship to the Gold and Green; his prodigies on the gridiron, his ever-increasing prowess, had aroused enthusiasm to fever heat, and now—
"I was told wrong," said Thor, shifting his vast tonnage awkwardly from one foot to the other, and evidently bewildered at the consternation caused by what he believed a trifling announcement, "I understood that I had to play football, that the Faculty required it of me, and the students let me think so. I have just learned from Doctor Alford that such is not true, that I do not have to play unless I choose, hence, I quit. I came to college to study, to gain an education. I have toiled long and hard for the opportunity, and now I have it, I shall not waste my time on such foolishness."
Then, utterly unconscious that he had spoken sentences which would create a mighty sensation at old Bannister, that might doom the Gold and Green to defeat, lose his Alma Mater the Championship, and bring on himself the cruel ostracism and bitter censure of his fellows, John Thorwald lumbered down the corridor. A moment of tense silence followed and then Captain Butch Brewster groaned.
"It's all over, it's all over, fellows!" he said brokenly, "Bannister loses the Championship! We know it is impossible to move Thor on the football field, and now that he has said 'No!' to playing football, dynamite can not move him from his decision."
Then, crushed and disconsolate, the football squad filed silently from the room, to break the glad news to Coach Corridan, and to spread the joyous tidings to old Bannister. When they had gone, T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., staring at the figurative black cloud that lowered over his Alma Mater, strove to find its silver lining, and at last he partially succeeded.
"Anyway," said Hicks, with a lugubrious effort to grin, "Thor's announcement shocked the squad so much that I was not forced to explain my Billion-Dollar Mystery!"
HICKS MAKES A DECISION
"In the famous words of Mr. Somebody-Or-Other," quoth T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., "something has got to be did, and immediately to once!"
Big Butch Brewster nodded assent. So did Head Coach Patrick Henry Corridan, Beef McNaughton, Team Manager Socks Fitzpatrick, Monty Merriweather, Dad Pendleton, President of the Athletic Association, and Deacon Radford, quarter-back, also Shad Fishpaw, who, being Freshman Class-Chairman, maintained a discreet silence. Instead of the usual sky-larking, care-free crowd that infested the cozy quarters of the happy-go-lucky Hicks, every collegian present, except the ever-cheerful youth, seemed to have lost his best friend and his last dollar at one fell swoop!
"Oh, yes, something has got to be did!" fleered Beef McNaughton, the davenport creaking under the combined tonnage of himself and Butch Brewster, "But who will do it? Where's all that Oh-just-leave-it-to-Hicks stuff you have pulled for the past three years, you pestiferous insect? Bah! You did a lot; you dragged a Prodigious Prodigy to old Bannister, enshrouded him in darkest mystery, and now, when he pushed the 'Varsity off the field and promised to corral the Championship, single-handed, he puts his foot down, and says, 'No—I will not play football!' Get busy, Little Mr. Fix-It."
"Oh, just leave it to Hicks!" accommodated that blithesome Senior, with a cheeriness he was far from feeling. "You all do know why Thor won't play football; it is not like last season, when Deke Radford, a star quarter-back, refused either to play, or to explain his refusal. Let me get an inspiration, and then Thor will once again gently but firmly thrust entire football elevens down the field before him!"
As evidence of how intensely serious was the situation, let it be chronicled that, for the first time in his scatter-brained campus career, T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., did not dare strum his banjo and roar out ballads to torture his long-suffering colleagues. Popular and beloved as he was, the gladsome youth hesitated to shatter the quietude of the campus with his saengerfest, knowing as he did what a terrible blow Thor's utterly astounding announcement had been to the college.
It was nine o'clock, one night two weeks after the day when John Thorwald, better known as Thor, the Prodigious Prodigy, so mysteriously produced by Hicks, had stolidly paralyzed old Bannister by unemotionally stating his decision to play no more football. Since then, to quote the Phillyloo Bird, "Bannister has staggered around the ring like a prizefighter with the Referee counting off ten seconds and trying to fight again before he takes the count." In truth, the students had made a fatal mistake in building all their hopes of victory on that blond giant, Thor; seeing his wonderful prowess, and beholding how, in the first week of the season, the Norwegian Colossus had ripped to shreds the Varsity line which even the heavy Ballard eleven of the year before could not batter, it was but natural that the enthusiastic youths should think of the Championship chances in terms of Thor. For one week, enthusiasm and excitement soared higher and higher, and then, to use a phrase of fiction, everything fell with a dull, sickening thud!
In vain did Coach Corridan, the staff of Assistant Coaches, Captain Butch Brewster, and others strive to resuscitate football spirit; nightly mass-meetings were held, and enough perfervid oratory hurled to move a Russian fortress, but to no avail. It was useless to argue that, without Thor, Bannister had an eleven better than that of last year, which so nearly missed the Championship. The campus had seen the massive Thor's prodigies; they knew he could not be stopped, and to attempt to arouse the college to concert pitch over the eleven, with that mountain of muscle blotting out vast sections of scenery, but not in football togs, was not possible.
"One thing is sure," spoke Dad Pendleton seriously, gazing gloomily from the window, "unless we get Thor in the line-up for the Big Games, our last hope of the Championship is dead and interred! And I feel sorry for the big fellow, for already the boys like him just about as much as a German loves an Englishman; yet, arguments, threats, pleadings, and logic have absolutely no effect on him. He has said 'No,' and that ends it!"
"He doesn't understand things, fellows," defended T. Haviland Hicks, Jr., with surprising earnestness. "Remember how bewildered he seemed at our appeal to his college spirit, and his love for his Alma Mater. We might as well have talked Choctaw to him!"
Butch Brewster, Socks Fitzpatrick, Dad Pendleton, Beef McNaughton, Deacon Radford, Monty Merriweather, and Shad Fishpaw well remembered that night after Thor's tragic decision, when they—part of a Committee formed of the best athletes from all teams, and the most representative collegians of old Bannister, had invaded Thor's room in Creighton Hall, to wrestle with the recalcitrant Hercules. Even as Hicks spoke, they visioned it again.
A cold, cheerless room, bare of carpet or pictures, with just the study-table, bed, and two chairs. At the study-table, his huge bulk sprawling on, and overflowing, a frail chair, they had found the massive John Thorwald laboriously reading aloud the Latin he had translated, literally by the sweat of his brow. The blond Colossus, impatient at the interruption, had shaken his powerful frame angrily, and with no regard for campus tradition, had addressed the upperclassmen in a growl: "Well, what do you want? Hurry up, I've got to study."
And then, to state it briefly, they had worked with (and on) the stolid Thorwald for two hours. They explained how his decision to play no more football would practically kill old Bannister's hopes of the Championship, would assassinate football spirit on the campus, and cause the youths to condemn Thor, and to ostracise him. Waxing eloquent, Butch Brewster had delivered a wonderful speech, pleading with John Thorwald to play the game. He tried to show that obviously uninterested mammoth that, like the Hercules he so resembled, he stood at the parting of the ways.
"You are on the threshold of your college career, old man!" he thundered impressively, though he might as well have tried to shoot holes in a battleship with a pop-gun, "What you do now will make or break you. Do you want the fellows as friends or as enemies; do you want comradeship, or loneliness and ostracism? You have it in your power to do two big things, to win the Championship for your Alma Mater, and to win to yourself the entire student-body, as friends; will you do that, and build a firm foundation for your college years, or betray your Alma Mater, and gain the enmity of old Bannister!"
Followed more fervid periods, with such phrases as, "For your Alma Mater," "Because of your college spirit," "For dear old Bannister," and "For the Gold and Green!" predominating; all of which terms, to the stolid, unimaginative Thorwald being fully as intelligible as Hindustani. They appealed to him not to betray his Alma Mater; they implored him, for his love of old Bannister; they besought him, because of his college spirit; and all the time, for all that the Prodigious Prodigy understood, they might as well have remained silent.
"I will tell you something," spoke Thor, at last, with an air of impatient resignation, "and don't bother me again, please! I have come to Bannister College to get an education, and I have the right to do so, without being pestered. I pay my bills, and I am entitled to all the knowledge I can purchase. I look from my window, and I see boys, whose fathers are toiling, sacrificing, to send them here. Instead of studying, to show their gratitude, they loaf around the campus, or in their rooms, twanging banjos and guitars, singing silly songs, and sky-larking. I don't know what all this rot is you are talking of; 'college spirit,' 'my Alma Mater,' and so on. I do not want to play football; I do not like the game; I need the time for my study, so I will not play. Both my father and myself have labored and sacrificed to send me to college. The past five years, with one great ambition to go to college and learn, I have toiled like a galley-slave.
"And now, when opportunity is mine, do you ask me to play? You want me to loaf around, wasting precious time better spent in my studies. What do I care whether the boys like me, or hate me? Bah! I can take any two of you, and knock your heads together! Their friendship or enmity won't move me. I shall study, learn. I will not waste time in senseless foolishness, and I won't play football again."
T. Haviland Hicks, Jr. was silent as he stood by the window of his room, gazing down at the campus where the collegians were gathering before marching to the Auditorium for the nightly mass-meeting that would vainly strive to arouse a fighting spirit in the football "rooters." That blithesome, heedless, happy-go-lucky youth was capable of far more serious thought than old Bannister knew; and more, he possessed the rare ability to read character; in the case of Thor, he saw vastly deeper than his indignant comrades, who beheld only the surface of the affair. They knew only that John Thorwald, a veritable Colossus, had exhibited football prowess that practically promised the State Championship to old Bannister, and then—he had quit the game. They understood only that Thor refused to play simply because he did not want to, and as to why their appeals to his college spirit and his love for his Alma Mater were unheeded they were puzzled.