I. A SOCIAL IMPOSSIBILITY II. 'VARSITY VERSUS MCGILL III. THE VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS IV. ONLY ONE CLAIM V. "YEA, AND HIS OWN LIFE ALSO" VI. ON THE TRAIL VII. THE OUTPOST VIII. THE OLD PROSPECTOR IX. TIM CARROLL X. THE TURF MEET XI. "I WAS A STRANGER, AND YE TOOK ME IN" XII. HIS KEEPER XIII. THE PRESIDENT OF GUY'S, LONDON XIV. OLD PROSPECTOR'S AWAKING XV. EJECTED AND REJECTED XVI. "STAY AT YOUR POST, LAD" XVII. BETTY'S LAST WORDS XVIII. THE DON'S RECOVERY XIX. THE REGION BEYOND XX. THE NEW POLICY XXI. THE WAITING GAME
A SOCIAL IMPOSSIBILITY
It was one of November's rare days. The kindly air, vital with the breath of the north wind and mellow with the genial sun, was full of purple haze; the grass, still vividly green, gave no hint of the coming winter; the trees, bony and bare but for a few rags of summer dress, russet-brown and gold, stood softened of all their harshness in the purple haze and slanting, yellow light of the autumn afternoon. Nature wore a face of content. She had fulfilled her course for another year, and, satisfied with her achievement, was obviously thinking of settling herself into her winter's sleep.
It was a good day to be alive. The tingle in the air somehow got into the blood.
So it felt to a young girl who danced out from under the trees on the west boundary of the University campus.
"Oh!" she cried to her statelier, taller sister, who with a young man followed more sedately into the open. "Oh, what a day! What a picture!"
She was a bonny maid just out of her teens, and, with her brown gown, brown hair and eyes, red cheeks, and wholesome, happy face, she fitted well into the picture she herself looked upon.
"Dear old 'Varsity," said her sister in a voice quiet, but thrilling with intense feeling. "There is nothing so lovely in all this city of Toronto."
"Toronto!" exclaimed the young man at her side. "Well, I should say! Don't you know that a distinguished American art critic declares this building the most symmetrical, the most harmonious, the most perfectly proportioned bit of architecture on the American continent. And that is something, from a citizen of the 'biggest nation on dry land.'"
They walked slowly and silently along the border of the matchless velvety lawn, noting the many features of beauty in the old grey face of the University building—the harmonious variety of lines and curves in curious gargoyles, dragons, and gryphons that adorned the cornices and the lintels, pausing long to admire the wonderful carved entrance with its massive tower above.
"Great, isn't it?" said Lloyd. "The whole thing, I mean—park, lawn, and the dear old, grey stones."
At this moment some men in football garb came running out of the pillared portico.
"Oh, here's the team!" cried Betty, the younger sister, ecstatically. "Are they going to play?"
"No, I think not," said Lloyd. "Campbell would not risk any scrimmaging or tackling this evening, with McGill men even now in town thirsting for their blood. He's got them out for a run to limber up their wind and things for to-morrow."
The sisters were football enthusiasts. For the past four years the beautiful Rosedale home of the Fairbanks had been the rendezvous for students, and, as many of these had been football men, the young ladies had become as devoted to the game and almost as expert in its fine points as any of its champions.
"Don't they look well and fit," exclaimed Betty as the string of runners went past.
"Yes, and fit they are every man," replied Lloyd. "There's Campbell! He's a truly great captain, knows his men, and gets out of them all that is possible."
"Yes, and there's Brown; and McNab, isn't it? Aren't they the quarters?" asked Betty excitedly.
Lloyd nodded. "And yonder goes 'Shock,' the great Shock."
"Oh, where?" cried Betty. "Yes, yes. Now, do you know I think he is just as mean as he can be. Here I have been bowing and smiling my best and sweetest for four years, and though he knows a lot of the men we know he is just as much a stranger as ever," and Betty pouted in a manner that would have brought deep satisfaction to Shock had he seen her.
"Here are the three halves, aren't they?" inquired Helen, the elder sister.
"Yes," replied Lloyd. "There's Martin and Bate. Fine fellow, Bate—and—"
"Oh!" broke in Betty, "there's the 'The Don.' do wish they would look. They needn't pretend they don't see us, the horrid things."
"Of course they see you," answered Lloyd, "but they are engaged in serious business. You surely don't expect to divert their attention from the pursuit of their noble art. Why, who, or what do you conceive yourself to be?"
But Betty only smiled serenely, and shook her curls back saucily.
"Oh, I know," replied Lloyd, "I know what you are saying. 'Some day, some day they will grovel.' Alas, only too soon! And, indeed, here comes The Don on his second round. I'll ask him what he means."
"If you dare!" cried Betty.
"Mr. Lloyd!" said Helen haughtily, and Mr. Lloyd thought better of it.
But "The Don" did not even glance toward the group.
"Look at that, now," said Lloyd disgustedly.
"Did anyone ever see such besotted devotion to a barbarous vocation."
"He did not see us at all," insisted Betty. "But why is Mr. Balfour called 'The Don'?"
"Obviously, I should say, from his Don-like appearance, bearing, carriage, etc. But I am not an authority. Ask little Brown, your special slave. He knows all about both Shock and The Don."
"What absurd names you have," exclaimed Betty. "Now, what is the reason for Shock's name? Is it the shock of his charge in the scrimmage?"
"Not bad, that. I rather fear, however, it has to do with his most striking feature, if feature it be, for, when you pull him feet first out of a scrimmage, a method not infrequently adopted, his head is a sight to behold. But, as I said before, ask Brown."
"I will to-night. He's coming over after tea. You are coming, too, are you not?"
Lloyd bowed. "I shall be delighted"
True to her word Betty greeted Brown, on his appearance in the cosy, homelike parlour of the Fairbanks' that evening, with the question, "How did 'The Don' come by his nickname?"
"Oh, did you never know that? Most fellows put it down to his style, but it's not that. He got it from his blood. You know, his father was one of those West India, sea-captains that one used to find strewn thick through Halifax society, who made fortunes in rum and lost them pretty much the same way. Well, the old captain married a Spanish girl. I have seen her portrait, and she was a beauty, a 'high-bred Spanish lady,' sure enough. Lived somewhere in the islands. Came home with the Captain, and died in Halifax, leaving her seven year old boy in charge of an aunt. Father died soon afterwards. Grief, I believe, and drink. Even then his people called the 'the little Don.' He had a little money left him to start with, but that has long since vanished. At any rate, for the last five or six years he has had to fend for himself."
"Quite a romance," said Lloyd.
"Isn't it?" exclaimed Betty. "And he never told a word."
"Well, The Don's not a publisher."
"But then he told you."
"Yes, he told me and Shock one night. He likes us, you see."
"'De gustibus non disputandum,'" murmured Lloyd, and in answer to Betty's inquiring look added, "as the old woman said when she kissed her cow."
"Now then, what about Shock's name?" continued Betty.
"Hair," said Brown laconically. "You have seen him come out of a scrimmage like a crab?"
"Yes. Isn't he just lovely then?" exclaimed Betty.
"Lovely? Oh, woman, woman! A ghastly, bloody, fearsome spectacle. Lovely! But it was ever thus. 'Butchered to make a Roman holiday,'" replied Lloyd.
"Well, he is rather bloody. Bleeds easily, you; know, but it doesn't hurt at all," said Brown. "He never really enjoys himself till the blood flows."
"Disgusting old Berserker!" exclaimed Lloyd.
"But I think he is just a dear," went on Betty enthusiastically. "The way he puts his head right down into a crowd of men, and lets them jump on him and maul him!"
"Yes," replied her sister, who had taken little part in the conversation, "and comes out smiling. That is what I like."
"And bloody," added Lloyd. "That's what Miss Betty likes."
"I want to know about him," cried Betty impatiently. "Why don't we get to know him? Tell me about him," she insisted. "Where does he live? Who are his people?"
"Well, you see, Shock's shy. Does not go in for the sort of thing that Lloyd, for instance, revels and glitters in—teas, functions, social routs, and all that, you know. He has only his mother, a dear old Highland lady, poor, proud, and independent. She lives in a quaint little house out on the Commons away behind the college, and lives for, in, with, by, and around Shock, and he vice versa. He shares everything with her, his work down in the mission—"
"Mission!" interrupted Betty.
"Yes. Runs a mission down in St. John's ward. Gives her all his experiences with the denizens of that precinct, keeps her in touch with his college work, and even with his football. You ought to see him lay a out the big matches before her on the tea table with plates, cups, salt cellars, knives, spoons, and you ought to see her excitement and hear her criticisms. Oh, she's a great sport!"
"Go on," said Helen, her fine eyes beginning to glow. "Go on. Tell us more about her."
But Brown shut up abruptly, as if he had been taking a liberty with the privacy of his friend's home.
"Oh," he said lightly, "there's nothing more to tell. They live a very quiet, very simple, but, I think, a very beautiful life."
"And she's fond of football?" inquired Betty.
"Devoted to it."
"And has she never seen a game? Has she never seen Shock play?" inquired Helen.
"Would she be afraid?"
"Would you insult the widow of a Sutherland Highlander whose picture in warlike regalia regards her daily from her cottage wall?"
"Well, I am going to see her," exclaimed Betty.
Brown looked annoyed.
"Why, I am going to call."
Brown laughed a little scornfully. "Yes, and be sure to leave three cards—is it?—and tell her your day."
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Betty indignantly. "You are not very polite."
"Oh, I am sorry, really. But I imagined the old lady looking at you and wondering what was your particular business, and then I thought of your difficulty in making it quite clear to her."
"Why! does she not call on anyone?"
"No. She takes her knitting and visits."
"Well, I'm going anyway, somehow. I'll ask Shock to take me."
"Oh, Betty, you could not do that," said Helen. "No man would like exhibiting his home, much less his mother."
But Betty shook her head decidedly, saying, "I'll find some way. Tell me, what does she like?"
"But I mean what amusement and pleasure has she?"
"Amusement! Shades of the mighty past! Why, Miss Betty," Brown's tone is sad and severe, "in my young days young people never thought of amusement. We had no time for such follies."
"Oh, nonsense!" exclaimed Betty impatiently. "Has she no other interest in life than Shock?"
"None. Her church,—she would regard your prelacy with horror,—and Shock, and Shock's doings and goings—and football, of course, as I have said. Shock plays, you see."
"Then I have an idea," cried Helen. "We'll—"
"Do go on," appealed Brown.
"Better give it to him," said Lloyd. "An idea, you know, is to some people a rare and valuable asset."
"Not now. Perhaps later I may impart it," said Helen.
"It would be a great kindness," said Brown humbly, "if you could let me have it soon."
"Nature abhors a vacuum, you know," put in Lloyd.
At this point the bell rang and The Don came in. He was a young man of striking appearance, handsome, dark, well set up, with the eyes of his Spanish mother, but with the head and jaw of his Scotch sea-captain father. With all his ease of manner there was a shy, proud reserve about him, and a kind of grand air that set him apart from any company in which he might appear.
After saluting the young ladies with a somewhat formal bow, he announced, "I want you, Brown."
"Oh, sit down," cried Betty. "Sit down, Mr. Balfour. We are not going to allow you to carry off our visitor in this abrupt manner."
"Yes, take yourself off," cried Brown. "You see I can't be spared."
"Please sit down," urged Helen. "We want to ask you about the match."
"I really cannot," replied The Don. "I am on duty, you see."
"Yes. Looking after men who would stay out to all hours, and regale themselves upon cake and all sorts of indigestible stuff. And more than that, Shock is outside waiting."
"Oh," cried Betty, "do bring him in. For years Helen and I have known him, and yet we don't know him. Bring him in."
"Can you not persuade him to come in?" urged Helen.
"I am sure I cannot. But if you were to try—" The Don paused, looking doubtfully at her. Helen hesitated.
"Oh, he's awful, I know. He will hardly speak to me," interrupted Betty. "But if you'll come with me I'll humble myself before him."
In a moment or two, sure enough, they returned, with Shock following.
He was a big man, gaunt and bony, with a mighty pair of shoulders topped by a square, massive head on which bristled a veritable shock of coarse, yellow hair. But he had a strong, honest face, and good, deep blue eyes. He seemed too big for the room, and after shaking hands awkwardly with Helen, who had gone forward to meet him, he subsided into, deep arm-chair, struggling with his hands and feet.
The contrast between Shock on the one hand, and the elegant Lloyd and the handsome Don on the other, could hardly be more striking. All in the room were conscious of this contrast and sought in every way to minimise it. Betty plunged into football talk, to which Shock listened for the most part smilingly silent.
She was determined to draw her unhappy visitor from his shell. But her most brilliant efforts were in vain. Poor Shock remained hopelessly engaged with his hands and feet, and replied at unexpected places, in explosive monosyllables at once ludicrous and disconcerting. Not even The Don, who came to her assistance, could relieve the awkwardness of the situation. Shock was too large to be ignored, and too unwieldy to be adjusted.
After a few minutes of hopeless endeavour The Don gave up the attempt and rose to go, saying: "You will need to excuse us. We are due at a meeting to-night. Come along, Brown."
The alacrity which Shock displayed in getting upon his feet gave abundant testimony to the agony he had been suffering during the last half hour.
"Yes, we must be off," said Brown, far more eager to go than was his wont.
"Will you not come again?" said Betty to Shock, as she shook hands with him. "My mother would be glad to see you."
But Shock could only look at her blankly, evidently wondering what her mother might wish to see him for, and when Betty tried to extract a promise from him he muttered something about being "far behind in his work and very busy."
But Betty was not to be baulked.
"I should like to call on your mother," she said. But again Shock looked blank, while Brown began to make faces at her from behind his back.
"When will your mother be in?" she persisted.
"Oh, she's in every day, except when she goes out for a walk, or—"
Brown kept up his signalling, and The Don began to look puzzled and annoyed.
"Well," said Betty desperately, "I would like to go and see her some day."
Shock hesitated, blushed, and then answered: "We have no friends in the city, and we do not visit much, and—"
"Oh, I'll tell you, Miss Betty," burst in Brown. "Get a sharp attack of typhoid and Mrs. Macgregor will then come and see you. She's a great nurse."
"That she is," said Shock enthusiastically. "She would be glad to come."
"Come along, Brown," broke in The Don. "We are late now. Come along, Shock," and the three men went off together, leaving Lloyd behind.
"Isn't he awful?" said Beth. "And didn't I humiliate myself?"
"You certainly deserved humiliation," said her sister indignantly. "You might have seen he was dreadfully shy, and you ought to have left him alone. And now for my great idea. I will take you both into my confidence. I am going to drive Mrs. Macgregor to the match to-morrow."
"Splendid!" exclaimed Betty. "And I'll go with you. But how can you persuade her?"
"I have thought about that," said Helen. "We'll ask Mr. Brown to drive around with us a little before, and I'm sure she will go."
"Will you allow me to join the party?" humbly asked Lloyd, "or is there someone else?"
"Oh," said Betty, "we are sure to need somebody, and you will do as well as any other."
In obedience to an invitation conveyed by Lloyd, Brown appeared at the Fairbanks house in the early morning. Eagerly the young ladies propounded their plan. At once Brown entered heartily into it, and calling with them in the afternoon persuaded the old lady that she ought to attend the great match, emphasising especially the fact that Shock would be delighted to see her there, and would be stimulated to do his very best by her presence.
"It will likely be his last game, too," urged Brown.
This finally decided the matter, and so it turned out that perhaps the most enthusiastic, and certainly the most picturesque, of all the groups that surrounded the campus next day was that which filled the Fairbanks carriage, consisting of two young ladies, an elegantly attired young man, and a quaint, plainly dressed, but undeniably dignified, old lady.
VARSITY VERSUS McGILL
It is a glorious autumn day. The smoky air with just a nip of the coming frost in it hangs still over the trees, through whose bare tops and interlacing boughs the genial sunlight falls in a golden glory upon the grass below. The nip in the air, the golden light, the thrilling uncertainty of the coming match, the magnitude of the issue at stake, combine to raise the ardour of football enthusiasts to the highest pitch.
The record of each team is unique. Each has gone through the championship series without a single reverse. Perhaps never in their history have both universities been more worthily represented than by the teams that are to contest to-day the championship of the Dominion.
The McGill men are the first to appear on the campus, and are welcomed with loud and generous cheers, which are, however, redoubled upon the appearance of the 'Varsity champions.
Many eyes are turned upon the Fairbanks carriage. The young ladies are well known in University circles; but the quaint old lady, looking so handsome in spite of her plain black bonnet, awakens the curiosity of the crowd, which only increases when it becomes known that she is Shock's mother.
"Do you see Hamish, my dear?" inquires the old lady. "They are so much alike I cannot distinguish him."
"Go and bring him," cries Betty, and Lloyd returns in a moment with Shock and little Brown.
"Mother! mother! This is awful. You won't like it a bit. You'll think I'm getting killed many a time."
But the old lady only smiles placidly. "Indeed, and I'm not afraid for you. Run away, Hamish, and be careful of the laddies."
"Don't tell him that, Mrs. Macgregor," pleads Brown. "He's far too gentle as it is."
Some few minutes are spent in arranging for the kick-off.
"Oh, I do wish they would start," exclaims Betty, standing up in the carriage. "If they would only start!" she repeats. "I want to have a chance to shriek."
"There they go!" exclaims Lloyd.
It is McGill's kick. Huntingdon, the big captain and centre forward, takes it magnificently, following up hard with his whole team. Pepper, the 'Varsity full back, however, is at the spot and returns into touch. In the throw-in McGill secures the ball, and by a swift rush makes fifteen or twenty feet, when, amid the cheers of the spectators, both teams settle down into their first scrimmage.
These are the days of close scrimmage play, when nine men on each side put their heads down with the ball between them, and shove for dear life. Picking out, heeling out, or kicking out is strictly forbidden and promptly penalised.
The first scrimmage results in a dead ball. Once more a scrimmage is formed, but again the result is a dead ball. Over and over again this play is repeated with very little gain on either side. It gradually becomes apparent, however, that McGill in a scrimmage is slightly heavier. Foot by foot they work their way toward the 'Varsity goal.
The cries of "Hold them, 'Varsity! Hold them, 'Varsity!" and, "You've got 'em, McGill! You've got 'em!" indicate the judgment of the spectators.
"Ay," says the old lady, "they are a bit heavy for them, I doubt."
"Who!" inquires Betty, much amused.
"The Montreal lads. But we will be waiting a meenute."
It is a very slow game for the crowds that line every side of the field. Neither team will let the ball out. Again and again the quarters nip up the ball and pass, but the tackling is so hard and swift that the halves cannot get away, and by passing ground is almost always lost.
"Keep it in!" is the word. Inch by inch towards the 'Varsity goal the McGill forwards fight their way.
Suddenly the McGill scrimmage weakens and breaks up. Their quarter seizes the ball, passes it low and swift to Bunch, who is off like the wind across the field, dodges through the quarters, knocks off Martin and Bate, and with The Don coming hard upon his flank, sets off for the 'Varsity line with only Pepper between him and a touch-down.
But Pepper is waiting for him, cool and steady. As Bunch nears him he crouches like a cat, creeping slowly to meet his coming foe. Ten feet from the line straight at the full back goes Bunch. At two paces distance he changes his mind and swerves to the left with the hope of dodging past.
But he has ventured too far. Pepper takes two short steps, and like a tiger springs at his foe, winds his arms round his hips and drags him down, while The Don from the side leaps fiercely on him and holds the ball safe, five feet from the line.
'Varsity goes wild with relief.
"Pepper! Pepper! Red hot Pepper!" they chant rapturously in enthusiastic groups here and there, as Pepper's red head emerges from the crowd piled upon him and the prostrate Bunch. Again and again rises the chant, as the full back returns at a slow trot to his place behind the line.
"Indeed, it is Pepper is the grand laddie," says the old lady approvingly. "Many's the game he has saved, Hamish will be telling me."
"Now, McGill!" calls out a Montreal man, leading his fellows. "Stone wall! Stone wall! Shove 'em in! Shove 'em in!"
But the 'Varsity captain is alive to his danger, and getting his men low down he determines to hold the enemy fast till the fury of their attack be somewhat spent, or till fortune shall bring him aid.
"Get up! Get up there, 'Varsity!" yells the McGill contingent.
"Look at 'em saying their prayers!" shouts a boy.
"They need to," answers another.
"Get up, 'Varsity! Get up! Don't be afraid!" they yell derisively.
"Make 'em stand up, referee," a Montreal man insists.
Again and again the McGill captain appeals to the referee, who remonstrates, urges, and finally orders the 'Varsity to get up or be penalised.
Campbell perceives that something must be done. He moves Shock from the centre to the left wing of the scrimmage and calls in Martin and Bate from half.
By this time every 'Varsity man is on his feet, for he knows that Shock is about to lead the "screw" and before the scrimmage is well formed the McGill stone wall is broken, and Campbell is boring through it with the bat, gaining a good ten feet and by a quick re-form ten more.
"Man, man, take heed. Yon's a dangerous game, I'm thinking," murmurs Shock's mother anxiously, to the amazed amusement of Lloyd, who replies, "Why, Mrs. Macgregor, you seem to know the game as well as the rest of us."
"Ay, Hamish has often showed me the working of the screw, and it is not to be depended upon in a place like yon."
The 'Varsity team breathe freely again and go in with new vim, while McGill settles down on the ball to recover steadiness.
But the 'Varsity captain has seen the screw work and resolves to try it again. Once more he move Shock to the wing, signals to the quarters, and again the Montreal stone wall is demoralised. But instead of Campbell boring over the prostrate form of his big centre with the ball the McGill captain, securing it, passes to Carroll, his quarter, who dashing off as a feint to the right, passes far across the field to Bunch on the left.
Bunch as usual is in his place, catches beautifully and is off down the field like a whirlwind, dodging one, knocking off another, running round a third, till between him and the goal line he has only the half back, Martin, and the full.
The McGill people go wild again. "Bunch! Bunch!" they yell frantically, crowding down the line after him. "He's in! He's in!"
But not yet. Red Pepper is swiftly bearing down upon him, and as he comes within reach springs at him. But the wily Bunch has learned to measure that long reach, and dodging back sharply, he slips round Pepper and makes for the line ten yards away.
A long groan goes up from the 'Varsity support, while from a hundred McGill throats rises the cry again—"He's in! He's in! A touch! A touch!"
But close upon him, and gaining at every foot, is The Don, the fleetest man in the 'Varsity team. For half a second it looks as if Bunch must make the line, but within three yards of the goal, and just as he is about to throw himself toward it, Balfour shoots out his arm, grasps his enemy by the back of the neck, and turning round, hurls him back with terrific force to the ground and clambers on top of him. It is a fierce tackle, giving great satisfaction to all the 'Varsity supporters, but to none more than to Mrs. Macgregor, who, as she sees the unfortunate Bunch hurled to earth, exclaims with quiet satisfaction, "That will be doing for ye, I'm thinking."
"Isn't she a great old warrior?" says Lloyd aside, to the young ladies.
"The Don! The Don!" cry the 'Varsity contingent. "We-like-Don! We-like-Don!" they chant, surging across the corner of the field in the wildest enthusiasm.
"Keep back! Keep back! Give him air." The referee, and the captains with their teams, push the crowd back, for Bunch is lying motionless upon the ground. "It's simply a case of wind," says little Carroll, the McGill quarter, lightly.
"The want of it, you mean," says big Mooney, hauling Carroll back by the neck.
In a few minutes, however, the plucky McGill half back is up again, and once more the scrimmage is formed.
Gradually it grows more evident that McGill is heavier in the scrimmage, but this advantage is offset by the remarkable boring quality of the 'Varsity captain, who, upon the break up of a scrimmage, generally succeeds in making a few feet, frequently over Shock's huge body. As for Shock, he apparently enjoys being walked upon by his captain, and emerges from each successive scrimmage with his yellow hair fiercely erect, his face covered with blood, and always wreathed in smiles. No amount of hacking and scragging in a scrimmage can damp his ardour or ruffle the serenity of his temper.
"Isn't he ghastly?" exclaims Lloyd to the young ladies at his side.
"Perfectly lovely!" cries Betty in return.
"Ah, the old story of the bloodthirsty sex," replies Lloyd. "Hello, there goes half time," he adds, "and no score yet. This is truly a great game." Eagerly the men are taken charge of by their respective attendants, stripped, rubbed, slapped, and sponged.
Up come Shock and Brown. The blood on Shock's face gives him a terrifying appearance.
"Oh!" cries Helen anxiously, "you are hurt."
"Not a bit," he replies cheerily, glancing in surprise at her.
"How do you like it, Mrs Macgregor?" inquires Brown.
"Man, laddie, they are a grand team, and it will be no easy matter to wheep them."
"Don't you think now that Shock is a little too gentle with them?" asks Brown wickedly.
"Well, it will not do to allow them to have their own way altogether," she replies cautiously. "But run away, Hamish, and get yourself put right. There is much before you yet."
"Say, old man," says Brown as they trot off, "it's no credit to you to be a great centre. You'd disgrace your blood if you were anything else."
Into the 'Varsity dressing room strolls old Black, the greatest captain of the greatest team 'Varsity has ever seen.
"Well, old chap," he calls out cheerfully to Campbell, "how goes it?"
"All right," says Campbell. "They are a great team, but I think we are holding them."
"They are the greatest team McGill ever sent here," replies Black.
"Oh, thanks, awfully," says Campbell, "but they are hardly up to the team of four years ago."
"Quite, I assure you, and you are holding them down."
"Do you think so?" There was no anxiety in the captain's tone, but there was a serious earnestness that somehow caught the ear of all the men in the room.
Black noticed it.
"Yes, you are holding them so far, without a doubt. Their weight tells in the scrimmage, and of course we do not know their back play yet, and that fellow Bunch Cameron is a wonder."
"That's what!" sings out little Brown. "But what's the matter with The Don?"
Immediately the roar comes back, "He's—all—right!"
"Yes," replies Black quietly, "Balfour is swifter, and harder in tackle."
"Have you anything to suggest?" asks Campbell, with a reverence which a man in the struggle feels for one who has achieved. The men are all quiet, listening. But Black knows his place.
"Not in the least. You have a great team, and you are handling them perfectly."
"Hear that now, will you?" cries little Brown "We're It!"
"Do you think we had better open up a little?" But Black is a gentleman and knows better than to offer advice.
"I really cannot offer an opinion. You know your men better than I. Besides, it is better to find out your enemy's tactics than to be too stuck on your own. Remember, those fellows are doing some thinking at this blessed minute. Of course," he went on hesitatingly, "if they keep playing the same close game—well—you might try—that is—you have got a great defence, you know, and The Don can run away from any of them."
"All right," said the captain. "We'll feel 'em first, boys. Keep at the old game. Close and steady till we get inside their heads. Watch their quarters. They're lightning in a pass."
It turns out that old Black is right. The McGills have been doing some thinking. From the kick-off they abandon the close scrimmage for a time, playing an open, dribbling, punting game, and they are playing it superbly. While they are sure in their catching and fierce in their tackle, their specialty is punting and following up. In this they are exceedingly dangerous. For the first ten minutes the 'Varsity men are forced within their own twenty-five yard line and are put upon their defence. The quarters and forwards begin to "back," a sure sign of coming doom.
"What in thunder are you doing back here!" roars Martin to little Brown. "Do you see anything wrong with this line?"
Nothing so maddens a half back as to see the forward line fall back into defence. Little Brown, accepting his rebuke with extraordinary meekness, abandons the defence and with the other quarters and forwards, who had been falling back, goes up where Campbell and Shock are doing their best to break the punting game and are waiting their chance for a run.
Every moment is dangerous; for the McGills have the spirit of victory strong upon them, and from their supporters on the side lines the triumphant and exasperating refrain is rising:
"Got'em going, going, going, Got'em going home."
And indeed for a few minutes it looks like it. Again and again the McGill forward line, fed carefully and judiciously by their defence, rush to the attack, and it is all Campbell can do to hold his men in place. Seizing the opportunity of a throw-in for 'Varsity, he passes the word to his halves and quarters, "Don't give away the ball. Hold and run. Don't pass," and soon he has the team steady again and ready for aggressive work. Before long, by resolutely refusing to kick or pass and by close, hard tackling, 'Varsity forces McGill to abandon open play, and once more the game settles down into the old, terrible, grinding scrimmage.
"Oh, why don't they let The Don have it?" exclaims Betty. "I am sure he could get through."
The crowd seem to hold the same opinion, for they begin to call out, "Let it out, Alec. Let The Don have it."
But Campbell still plays cautiously a close game. His men are staying well, and he is conscious of a reserve in his back line that he can call upon at the fitting moment. For that moment, however, he waits anxiously, for while his scrim is playing with bulldog grit it is losing snap. True, Shock comes out of every tussle bloody, serene, and smiling as usual, but the other men are showing the punishment of the last hour's terrible scrimmage. The extra weight of the McGill line is beginning surely to tell. It is an anxious moment for the 'Varsity captain, for any serious weakening of the scrimmage line is disastrous to the morals of a team.
"You are holding them all right, old chap," says old Black, taking advantage of a pause in the play while little Brown's leg is being rubbed into suppleness.
"I'd like to open out, but I'm afraid to do it," replies Campbell.
"Well, I think your back line is safe enough. Their scrimmage is gaining on you. I almost think you might venture to try a pass game."
It is upon the passing of his back line that Campbell has in previous matches depended for winning, and with ordinary opponents he would have adopted long ago this style of play, but these McGill men are so hard upon the ball, so deadly in tackling, and so sure in their catch that he hesitates to give them the opportunities that open play affords. But he has every confidence in The Don, his great half back; he has never played him in any match where he has not proved himself superior to everything in the field, and he resolves to give him a chance.
At this moment something happens, no one knows how. A high punt from behind sends the ball far up into the 'Varsity territory, and far before all others Bunch, who seems to have a kind of uncanny instinct for what is going to happen, catches the ball on the bound and makes for the 'Varsity line with a comparatively open field before him. Fifteen yards from the line he is tackled by Martin, but ere he falls passes to Huntingdon, his captain, who, catching neatly and dodging between Campbell and another 'Varsity man, hurls his huge weight upon Pepper, who is waiting for him, crouched low after his usual style.
The full back catches him fairly and throws him over his shoulder. As both come heavily to the ground there is a sickening crack heard over the field. The McGill captain, with Pepper hanging desperately to his hips, drags himself over the line and secures a touchdown for McGill.
At once there rises a wild tumult of triumph from the McGill contingent, but after a minute or two the noise is followed by an anxious hush, and when the crowd about the prostrate players is dispersed Pepper is seen lying on his face tearing up the grass. Two or three doctors rush in from the crowd, and before long Pepper is carried off the field. His leg is broken.
A number of people begin to leave the field.
"Oh, isn't it horrible," groans Betty, turning very pale. "Shall we go home, Mrs. Macgregor?"
Helen looks at the old lady anxiously.
"Here is Hamish," she replies quickly. "We will wait."
Shock runs up, much disturbed.
"Awful, is it not?" he says to Helen, who is the first to meet him. "I am sorry, mother, you are here."
"Will they be stopping, think you, Hamish?" asks his mother. There is a shade of anxiety in her voice.
"No, mother, we must play it out."
"Then I will just be waiting for the end," says the old lady calmly. "Poor laddie—but he was bravely defending his post. And you must just be going, Hamish man."
As Shock moved off the young ladies and Lloyd looked at her in amazement. It was in some such spirit that she had sent her husband to his last fight twenty years ago.
A cloud of grief and foreboding settles down upon the 'Varsity team, for Pepper is not only a great favourite with them, but as a full back they have learned to depend upon him. Huntingdon is full of regrets, and at once offers Campbell and the referee to forego the touchdown, and to scrimmage at the point of tackle.
"He would have held me, I know, bar the accident," he says.
The referee is willing, but Campbell will not hear of it.
"Put off a man," he says shortly, "and go on with the game."
Bate is moved from half to full, a man is taken from the scrimmage to supply his place, McGill makes a similar shift, and the game proceeds.
Huntingdon fails to convert the touchdown into a goal. Bate kicks back into touch, and with desperate determination 'Varsity goes in to even the score.
Campbell resolves now to abandon the close game. He has everything to win, and to lose by four points is as much a loss as by a dozen.
"Play to your halves every time," he orders the quarters, and no sooner is play begun than the wisdom of the plan is seen. With a brilliant series of passes the 'Varsity quarters and halves work the ball through the McGill twenty-five line, and by following hard a high punt, force the enemy to a safety touch. No sooner has the McGill captain kicked off than the ball is returned and again McGill is forced to rouge.
The score now stands four to two in favour of McGill, but the 'Varsity men have come to their strongest and are playing with an aggressiveness that cannot be denied. Again and again they press their opponents behind their twenty-five line.
"Oh," exclaims Betty, "if there is only time they can win yet. Do find out," she says to Lloyd, "what time there is left." And Lloyd comes back to announce that there are only six minutes to play.
"Hamish will be telling me that a game is often won in the last minute," remarks the old lady encouragingly.
As Campbell perceives his desperate case, he begins to swear low, fierce oaths at his quarters. In all their experience of their captain the 'Varsity men have never heard him swear, and they awake to the fact that they are face to face with a situation entirely unparalleled in their history as a team. They are being defeated, and about to lose their one chance of the proud distinction of holding the championship of Canada.
From man to man Campbell goes as he finds opportunity his face white, his eyes ablaze, adjuring, urging, entreating, commanding, in a way quite unusual with him.
A new spirit seizes the men. Savagely they press the enemy. They are never off the ball, but follow it as hounds a hare, and they fling themselves so fiercely at their foe that in every tackle a McGill man goes down to earth.
But try as they may it seems impossible to get the ball to The Don. The McGill men have realised their danger and have men specially detailed to block the great 'Varsity half. Again and again The Don receives the ball; but before he can get away these men are upon him.
At length, however, the opportunity comes. By a low, swift pass from Brown, Martin receives the ball and immediately transfers it to The Don. Straight into the midst of a crowd of McGill men he plunges, knocking off the hands reaching for him, slipping through impossible apertures, till he emerges at the McGill line with little Carroll hanging on to his shoulders, and staggering across falls fairly into the arms of big Mooney.
Down they go all three together, with hands on the ball.
"What is it? Oh, what is it?" shrieks Betty, springing upon the box.
"I am thinking it is what they will be calling a maul in goal, and it is a peety we cannot be seeing it," replies the dauntless old lady.
"Oh, it's The Don," exclaims Betty anxiously. "What are they doing to him? Run, oh, run and see!" and Lloyd runs off.
"It's a maul sure enough. Two of them have The Don down," he announces, "but he'll hold all right," he adds quickly, glancing keenly at Betty.
"Let me go," cried Betty. "I must go."
"Betty," says Helen, in a low voice, "be quiet."
"Oh, I don't care," cries Betty passionately. "I want to go."
"He'll hold all right," says Lloyd confidently, and Betty grows suddenly quiet.
"Ay, that he will, yon chap," agrees Mrs. Macgregor, standing up and trying to see what is going on.
"If The Don can hold for three minutes it will count two for his side; if Mooney and Carroll can get the ball away it will only count one," explained Lloyd.
About the three players struggling on the ground the crowd pours itself, yelling, urging, imploring, shrieking directions. Campbell stoops down over The Don and shouts into his ear. "Hold on, Don. It means the game," and The Don, lying on his back, winds his arms round the ball and sets himself to resist the efforts of Mooney and Carroll to get it away.
In vain the police and field censors try to keep back the crowd. They are swept helpless into the centre. Madder and wilder grows the tumult, while the referee stands, watch in hand, over the struggling three.
"Stop that choking, Carroll," says Shock to the little quarter, who is gripping The Don hard about the throat.
"Get off, Mooney," cries Campbell. "Get off his chest with your knees. Get off, I say, or I'll knock your head off."
But Mooney persists in boring into The Don's stomach with his knees, tugging viciously at the ball. With a curse Campbell springs at him. But as he springs a dozen hands reach for him. There is a wild rush of twenty men for each other's throats. Too close to strike they can only choke and scrag and hack each other fiercely. The policemen push in, threatening with their batons, and there is a prospect of a general fight when the referee's whistle goes. Time is up. The MAUL is over. 'Varsity has its two points. The score now stand even, four to four, with two minutes to play.
They lift The Don from the ground. His breath is coming in gasps and he is trembling with the tremendous exertions of the last three minutes.
"Time there!" calls out Shock, who has Balfour in his arms.
The smile is all gone from Shock's face. As he watches The Don struggling in deep gasps to recover his breath, for the first time in his football life he loses himself. He hands his friend to a couple of men standing near, strides over to Mooney, and catching him by the throat begins to shove him back through the crowd.
"You brute, you!" he roars. "What kind of a game do you call that! Jumping on a man when he is down, with your knees! For very little," he continues, struggling to get his arm free from the men who are hanging on it, "I would knock your face off."
Men from both sides throw themselves upon Shock and his foe and tear them apart.
"That's all right, Shock," cries The Don, laughing between his gasps, and Shock, suddenly coming to himself, slinks shamefacedly into the crowd.
"It is not often Hamish forgets himself in yon fashion," says his mother, shaking her head. "He must be sorely tried indeed," she adds confidently.
"I am quite sure of it," replies Helen. "He always comes out smiling." And the old lady looks at her approvingly a moment, and says, "Indeed, and you are right, lassie."
In a few minutes The Don is as fit as ever, and slapping Shock on the back says pleasantly, "Come, along, old fire-eater. We've got to win this game yet," and Shock goes off with him, still looking much ashamed.
McGill kicks from the twenty-five line, but before the scrimmage that follows is over time is called, with an even score.
The crowd streams on the field tumultuously enthusiastic over a game such as has never been seen on that campus. Both sides are eager to go on, and it is arranged that the time be extended half an hour.
Old Black gets Campbell aside and urges, "Take ten minutes off and get your men into quarters." Campbell takes his advice and the rubbers get vigorously to work at legs and loins, rubbing, sponging, slapping, until the men declare themselves fresh as ever.
"Not hurt, Don?" inquires Campbell anxiously.
"Not a bit," says The Don. "It didn't bother me at all. I was winded, you see, before I fell."
"Well," says Campbell, "we're going to give you a chance now. There's only one thing to do, men. Rush 'em. They play best in attack, and our defence is safe enough. What do you say, Black?"
"I entirely agree. But begin steady. I should use your whole half back line, however, for a while. They will lay for Balfour there."
"That's right," says the captain. "Begin steady and pass to Martin and McLaren for the first while, and then everyone give The Don a chance."
"And Shock," calls out little Brown, "don't be a fool, and stop fighting," at which everybody roars except Shock himself, who, ashamed of his recent display of temper, hurries off to the field.
Once more the campus is cleared. Battered and bloody as to features, torn and dishevelled as to attire, but all eager and resolved, the teams again line up, knowing well that they have before them a half hour such as they have never yet faced in all their football career.
It is 'Varsity's kick. Campbell takes it carefully, and places it in touch well within the McGill twenty-five. After the throw in, the teams settle down to scrimmage as steady as at the first, with this difference, however, that 'Varsity shows perceptibly weaker. Back step by step their scrimmage is forced toward the centre, the retreat counterbalanced somewhat by the splendid individual boring of Campbell and Shock. But both teams are alert and swift at the quarters, fierce in tackle and playing with amazing steadiness.
Suddenly Carroll nips up the ball and passes hard and swift to the half back immediately behind him, who in turn passes far out to Bunch on the left wing. With a beautiful catch Bunch, never slacking speed, runs round the crowd, dodges the quarters, knocks off Martin, and with a crowd of men of both teams close upon his heels, makes for the line.
Before him stands Bate alone. From his tall, lank make one might easily think him none too secure on his legs. Bunch determines to charge, and like a little bull rushes full at him.
But Bate's whole football life has been one long series of deceptions, and so he is quite prepared for this kind of attack. As Bunch comes at him he steps lightly aside, catches the half back about the neck, swings him round and lands him prone with such terrific impact that the ball flies out of his grasp.
Immediately little Brown has it, passes to Martin, who on being tackled passes to The Don. The field before him is full of the enemy, but The Don never hesitates. Doubling, twisting, knocking of, he eludes man after man, while the crowds on the line grow more and more frantic, and at length, clearing the main body, he sets off across the field to more open country on the 'Varsity left. Behind him come Campbell, Shock, Martin and others, following hard; before him stand three of the McGill defence. Dorion, McDonnell, and Mooney. He has already made a great run, and it looks as if he cannot possibly make through.
First Dorion springs at him, but The Don's open hand at the end of a rigid arm catches him full in the neck, and Dorion goes down like a stick.
Big McDonnell bears swiftly down upon him and leaps high at him, but The Don lowers his shoulder, catches McDonnell below the wind and slides him over his back; but before he can get up speed again little Carroll is clutching at his hips, and Mooney, the McGill full back, comes rushing at him. Swinging round, The Don shakes Carroll partly off, and with that fierce downward cut of his arm which is his special trick, sends the little quarter flying, and just as Mooney tackles, passes the ball over his shoulder to Shock, who is immediately pounced upon by half a dozen McGill men, but who, ere he is held, passes to Campbell, who in turn works forward a few yards, and again on being tackled, passes to The Don. It is a magnificent bit of play.
The spectators have long since passed all bounds of control, and are pouring on the field, yelling like mad people. Even the imperturbable old lady loses her calm for a moment, and griping Helen's arm exclaims, "Look at that, now! Man, man, yon is a grand laddie."
There is no chance for The Don to run, for a swarm of the McGill men stand between him and the line only a few yards off. Then he does the only possible thing. Putting his head down he plunges into the crowd in front of him.
"Come on, Shock," yells Campbell. Instantly a dozen 'Varsity men respond to the cry and fall in behind Campbell and Shock, who, locking arms about The Don, are shoving him through for dear life.
There are two minutes of fierce struggle. Twenty men in a mass, kicking, scragging, fighting, but slowly moving toward the McGill line, while behind them and around them the excited spectators wildly, madly yelling, leaping, imploring, adjuring by all kinds of weird oaths to "shove" or to "hold." In vain the McGill men throw themselves in the way of the advancing mass. Steadily, irresistibly the movement goes on. They are being beaten and they know it.
"Down! down!" yells big Huntingdon, dropping on his knees on the line in front of the tramping, kicking 'Varsity phalanx.
A moment's pause, and there is a mass of mingling arms, legs, heads and bodies, piled on the goal line.
"Held! held!" yell the McGill men and their supporters.
But before the referee can respond Shock seizes The Don below the waist, lifts him clear of the mob, and trampling on friend and foe alike, projects him over the struggling mass beyond the enemy's line, where he is immediately buried beneath a swarm of McGill men, who savagely jump upon him and jam his head and body into the turf.
"He's in! he's in!" shrieks Betty, wildly waving her hand.
"Will it be a win, think ye?" anxiously inquires Shock's mother. "It will hardly be that, I doubt. But, eh—h, yon's the lad."
"Down! down!" cries the 'Varsity captain. "Get off the man! Get off the man! Let him up, there!"
But the McGill men are slow to move.
"Get up!" roars Shock, picking them off and hurling them aside.
"Get up, men! Get up! That ball is down," yells the referee through the din, into the ears of those who are holding The Don in a death grip.
With difficulty they are persuaded to allow him to rise. When he stands up, breathless, bleeding at the mouth, but otherwise sound, the crowd of 'Varsity admirers go into a riot of rapture, throwing up caps, hugging each other in ecstatic war dances, while the team walk quietly about recovering their wind, and resisting the efforts of their friends to elevate them.
"Quit it!" growls Campbell. "Get off the field! Get back, you hoodlums!"
Meantime Huntingdon is protesting to the referee.
"I claim that ball was fairly held, back there. Balfour was brought to a dead stand."
"How do you know, Huntingdon?" returns Campbell. "Your head was down in the scrim."
"I could see his legs. I know his boots."
It is true that The Don has a peculiar toe on his boots.
"Oh," jeers Campbell scornfully, "that's all rot, you know, Huntingdon."
"Look here, Campbell, listen to what I say. I want you to remember I am speaking the truth."
Huntingdon's quiet tone has its effect.
"I would never think of challenging your word," replies Campbell, "but I think it is quite impossible that you could absolutely know that The Don came to a dead stand."
"I repeat, I can pick out Balfour's boots from a whole crowd, and I know he was brought to a stand. I am prepared to swear that. Can any man swear to the contrary?"
"Why, certainly," cries Campbell, "half a dozen men can. There's Shock, who was right behind him."
But Shock thus appealed to, hesitates. He has an unfortunate conscience.
"I can't say for sure," he says, looking piteously, at his captain.
"Weren't you moving all the time, Shock?"
"Well, I was shoving all the time."
"But hold on," says Huntingdon. "Will you say that Balfour was never brought to a stand? Will you swear that?"
"Well, I cannot say for sure," replies Shock in great distress. "It was not very long, anyway."
Yells of triumphant laughter break from the McGill crowd.
The referee is in great difficulty. He has a reputation for courage and fairness. He hesitates a moment or two, and then, while the crowd wait breathless for his decision, says, "You can all see that it is almost impossible to be certain, but on the whole I shall give it a 'hold.'"
It was a bitter moment to the 'Varsity men, but Campbell is a true sport.
"Shut up, men," he says in answer to the loud protests of his team. "Get behind the ball."
Every second is precious now, and the line is only three feet away.
Again the field is cleared. The teams, springing to their places in the scrimmage, began to shove furiously before the ball is in play.
"Get up, men!" says the referee. "You must get up. Let me get this ball in. Get up, McGill! Get off your knees!" for the McGill men are on their goal line in an attitude of devotion.
Again and again the scrimmage is formed, only be broken by the eagerness of the combatants. At length the referee succeeds in placing the ball. Instantly Shock is upon it, and begins to crawl toward the line with half a dozen men on his back, gripping him by nose, ears, face, throat, wherever a hand can find a vulnerable spot.
"Hold there!" calls the referee. "'Varsity ball."
"Get off the man! Get off!" cry the 'Varsity men, pulling the McGill fellows by legs and heads, till at length Shock rises from the bottom of the heap, grimy, bloody, but smiling, grimly holding to the ball. He has made six inches. The line is two feet and a half away.
It is again 'Varsity's ball, however, and that means a great deal, for with Campbell lies the choice of the moment for attack.
Placing Shock on the wing, and summoning his halves and quarters, Campbell prepares for a supreme effort. It is obviously the place for the screw.
The McGill men are down, crouching on hands and feet, some on their knees.
Campbell refuses to play and appeals to the referee in a tone of righteous indignation, "What sort of game is this? Look at those fellows!"
"Get up McGill! Get up, or I'll penalise you," says the referee. Everyone knows he will keep his word. There is a movement on the part of McGill to rise. Campbell seizes the opportunity, lowers his head, and with a yell drops the ball in front of Shock. In the whirl of the screw the ball slips out to Brown, who tips it to The Don, but before he can take a single step half a dozen men are upon him and he is shoved back a couple of feet.
"Man, man," ejaculates the old lady, "will you not be careful!"
"I say!" exclaims old Black to a McGill enthusiast whom he had fought in the famous championship battle four years ago. "This is something like."
"Great ball," replies his friend. "We'll hold them yet. I've often seen a ball forced back from two feet off the line."
It is still the 'Varsity ball. The crowds are howling like maniacs, while the policeman and field censors are vainly trying to keep the field decently clear.
The Don resigns the ball to the captain and falls in behind. Every man is wet, panting, disfigured, but eager for the fight. Again the scrim forms, only to fall upon the ball.
"Dead ball," announces the referee, and both teams begin to manoeuvre for advantage of position. A few inches is a serious thing.
Again the ball is placed and the men throw themselves upon it, Shock as usual at the bottom of the heap with the ball under him.
Old Black runs up through the crowd and whispers in Campbell's ear, "Put Balfour and Martin in the scrim. They are fresher." He has noticed that the scrim line on both sides is growing stale, and can do no more than grimly hold on. At once Campbell sees the wisdom of this suggestion. The Don, though not so heavy as Shock, is quite as strong, and is quicker than the big centre, who is beginning to show the effect of the tremendous series of scrimmages he has just passed through. Martin, though neither so strong nor so heavy, is like an eel.
Quietly Campbell thrusts the halves into the first line on the right, whispering to Shock, "Let Balfour have it, and back him up."
As The Don gets the ball Campbell throws himself behind him with the yell, "'Varsity! now!" At the same instant The Don drops the ball, and with the weight of the whole team behind him begins to bore through the enemy.
For a few moments both teams hang in the balance, neither giving an inch, when old Black, yelling and waving wildly, attracts the attention of Bate.
"Go in!" he cries. "Go in!" and Bate, coming up with a rush, throws himself behind the scrim.
His weight turns the scale. Slowly at first, but gaining momentum with every inch, the mass yields, sways, and begins to move. The McGill men, shoving, hacking, scragging, fighting fiercely, finally dropping on their knees, strive to check that relentless advance. It is in vain. Their hour has come.
With hoarse cries, regardless of kicks and blows, trampling on prostrate foes, and followed by a mob of spectators tumultuously cheering, the 'Varsity wedge cleaves its way, till on the other side The Don appears with the ball hugged to his breast and Huntingdon hanging to his throat. A final rush and the ball is down. "The ball is down!" cries the referee, and almost immediately time is called.
The great match is over. By four points 'Varsity holds the championship of the Dominion.
"The greatest match ever played on this ground," cries old Black, pushing through the crowd to Campbell, with both hands outstretched.
After him comes the Montreal captain.
"I congratulate you most heartily," he says, in a voice that breaks in spite of all he can do.
"Thanks, old man," says Campbell quietly. "It was a case of sheer luck."
"Not a bit of it," replies Huntingdon, recovering himself. "You have a great team. I never saw a better."
"Well," replies Campbell heartily, "I have just seen as good, and there's none we would rather win from than McGill."
"And none," replies Huntingdon, "McGill would rather lick than 'Varsity."
Meantime Shock, breaking from a crowd of admirers who are bound to carry him in on their shoulders, makes for the Fairbanks carriage, and greets his mother quietly.
"Well, mother, it's over at last."
"Ay, it is. Poor fellows, they will be feeling bad. But come along, laddie. You will be needing your supper, I doubt."
Shock laughs loud. He knows his mother, and needs no words to tell him her heart is bursting with pride and triumph.
"Come in. Let us have the glory of driving you home," cries Betty.
"In this garb?" laughs Shock.
"That's the garb of your glory," says Helen, her fine eyes lustrous with excitement.
"Come, Hamish man, you will get your things and we will be waiting for you."
"Very well," he replies, turning away. "I will be only a minute."
He is not allowed to escape, but with a roar the crowd seize him, lift him shoulder high, and chanting, "Shock! Shock! we—like—Shock!" bear him away, in triumph.
"Eh, what are the daft laddies saying now?" inquires the old lady, struggling hard to keep out of her voice the pride that shone in her eyes.
"Listen," cries Helen, her eyes shining with the same light. "Listen to them," and beating time with her hand she joins in the chant, "Shock! Shock! we—like—Shock."
THE VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
The Superintendent had come from the West on his spring round-up. New settlements in anticipation of and following the new Railway, old settlements in British Columbia valleys, formed twenty years ago and forgotten, ranches of the foot-hill country, the mining camps to the north and south of the new line—these were beginning to fire the imagination of older Canada. Fresh from the new and wonderful land lying west of the Great Lakes, with its spell upon him, its miseries, its infamies, its loneliness aching in his heart, but with the starlight of its promise burning in his eyes, he came to tell the men of the Colleges of their duty, their privilege, their opportunity waiting in the West. For the most part his was a voice crying in the wilderness. Not yet had Canadians come to their faith in their Western Empire. Among the great leaders were still found those who poured contempt upon the project of the trans-continental railway, and even those who favoured the scheme based their support upon political rather than upon economic grounds. It was all so far away and all so unreal that men who prided themselves upon being governed by shrewd business sense held aloof from western enterprises, waiting in calm assurance for their certain collapse. Still, here and there men like Bompas, McLean, McDougall, and Robertson were holding high the light that fell upon prairie and foothill, mountain peak and canyon, where speculators, adventurers, broken men, men with shamed names seeking hiding, and human wolves seeking their prey were pouring in.
Discouraged with the results of his work in the Eastern Colleges, the Superintendent arrived at Knox, and to-night he stood facing the crowd of students and their friends that filled the long Dining Hall to overflowing. With heart hot from disappointment and voice strident with intensity of emotion, he told of the things he had seen and heard in that great new land. Descriptions of scenery, statistics, tales humorous and pathetic, patriotic appeal, and prophetic vision came pouring forth in an overwhelming flood from the great man, whose tall, sinewy form swayed and rocked in his passion, and whose Scotch voice burred through his sonorous periods. "For your Church, for your fellowmen, for Canada," rang out his last appeal, and the men passed out into the corridor toward the Entrance Hall, silent or conversing in low, earnest tones. There was none of the usual chaffing or larking. They had been thinking great thoughts and seeing great visions.
"I want to thank you for asking me in to-night, Lloyd," said The Don. His voice was quiet and his fine eyes were lustrous with light. "That man ought to be in Parliament. I shall see that country soon, I hope. What a master he is! What a grasp! What handling of facts! There's a great Canadian, I say, and he ought to be in Parliament."
The men gathered round, for the great 'Varsity half back was well known and well liked in that company; but they all knew him as one of the gay 'Varsity set, and some of the older men knew, too, that in his early college career were passages that neither he nor his friends cared to remember. Hence all of them, but especially Shock, whom he loved, and Lloyd, whom he greatly admired, listened with surprise to The Don's enthusiastic words, for they both had stood beside him in those dark days, and had played toward him the brother's part. The men waited in silence for Lloyd's reply. They knew him to be by far the strongest man in the college, the readiest in debate, as well as the most popular in the pulpit; but, with the sure instinct of college men, they had come to recognise his ambitious spirit, and, indeed, to be more influenced by it than they would have cared to acknowledge.
"Yes," said Lloyd, "it was certainly a statesman-like address. It contained all the elements of a great speech. But he—of course—well—he sees only one thing—The West."
"That's right," said little Brown, who had come in at Shock's earnest invitation, and because he was anxious to hear about the new country from one who was coming to be recognised as an authority, "he sees one thing sure enough. I say, what a drummer he'd make! Talk like that is worth 100 a minute to any firm. I'll put my Governor on to him. When that chap opened his sample case he wouldn't talk weather and politics, and then sidle up to business. Not much! He'd give them Brown's Axle Oil, Brown's Baking Powder, or anything else of Brown's he was showing, till his customer would see nothing but Brown's Axle Oil and Brown's Baking Powder all over his shop, and he'd be reaching for the whole output. One thing! You bet!"
A general laugh of approval followed Brown's speech.
"That's true enough," said Lloyd in a tone of calm superiority, "but there is other work to do and other places to do it in."
"The Park Church, for instance, eh, Lloyd?" suggested the voice slyly.
"Why not?" answered Lloyd. "The centres must be manned—that's a safe principle in strategy."
"Certainly," cried another voice ironically. "Our neglected masses!"
"Yes, and neglected classes, too." Lloyd's tone was earnest and sincere.
"I agree with you, Lloyd," said The Don emphatically, "if any fellows need to be, ah—well—shaken up, you know, it's us poor devils who attend the city churches. For my part, I would like to see you in the Park Church, and I promise you I would go regularly."
On all sides there was frank approval of The Don's position, while Lloyd, flushed and laughing, lightly replied: "Oh, there won't be any trouble, I fancy, in getting a man for the Park Church."
"Not in the least, I assure you," said Brown. "Brown Bros., Commission Merchants, etc., etc., will undertake to supply men in half-dozen lots willing for a consideration to offer themselves upon the altar of Park Church."
"There's more than willingness necessary, unfortunately, and besides, lots of men would be willing to go West," answered Lloyd.
"Yes, and lots of men deucedly unwilling, too, from what your old man there says, not to speak of the young lady, who apparently must also be willing. Oh! I say, wasn't that a great yarn; and if ever that chap gets a look at himself from that particular point of view, that 'll be the time to buy him."
"Brown, my boy," said The Don solemnly, "your limitations are obvious. The commercial in you has run to seed."
"That may be, but I can spot a man that knows how to show his goods, and when that old gentleman set forth the West in those high lights of his, I tell you what, I almost wished I was a Theologue."
"What a pity you are not," replied The Don thoughtfully, "for apparently they want strong men." At which the crowd again laughed.
"What's the matter with Shock?" suggested someone; "he's a good strong man." There was a general laugh.
"You're the man, Shock. You would clear out those saloons."
"Can you ride a broncho, Shock?"
At the good-natured chaff Shock blushed a deeper red than usual. No one expected much of poor Shock. Indeed, most of his classmates wondered if he would ever "get a place," and none more than Shock himself.
But Brown, resenting the laugh and its all too evident implication, replied indignantly: "You bet Shock's the man for the West, or any place else where solid men are wanted, and where Shock goes there will be something doing! And," striking an attitude, "the country will be the better for it! Oh, I am a Canadian!" he continued, smiting his breast dramatically. "Come along, Shock, we've got an appointment," and Brown, linking his arm affectionately through that of his big friend, stuck his cap on the back of his head and marched off whistling "The Maple Leaf."
"Say!" he cried, as he passed out into the street, "won't a lot of those fellows volunteer, or will they hunt round for a nice little bunk in Ontario?"
"Many would like to go if they could," said Shock thoughtfully, "but you know there are many things that must be considered."
"Young ladies, eh?" asked Brown with a laugh.
"Oh! didn't he tell that yarn well? It was great. But I'd hate to be the fellow."
"But you are not fair," replied Shock. "A man can't answer every appeal. He must think what he is fit for, and, in short, where he is called to work. There's Lloyd, now—"
"Oh, Lloyd!" broke in Brown impatiently. "He's a quitter."
"Not he. He's anything but that."
"No," owned Brown, "he's not a quitter, but he puts in overtime thinking of what's good for Lloyd. Of course, I do that sort of thing myself, but from a fellow like Lloyd one expects something better."
Soon they were at Shock's door.
"Come in," said Shock cordially, "mother will be glad to see you."
And Brown went in.
ONLY ONE CLAIM
It always gave Brown a sense of content to enter the Macgregor cottage. Even among the thrifty North country folk the widow Macgregor's home, while not as pretentious as those of the well-to-do farmers, had been famous as a model of tidy house-keeping. Her present home was a little cottage of three rooms with the kitchen at the back. The front room where Mrs. Macgregor received her few visitors, and where Shock did most of his reading, except when driven to his bedroom by the said visitors, was lighted by two candles in high, polished, old-fashioned brass candlesticks, and by the fire from the hearth, which radiated a peace and comfort which even the shiny hair-cloth chairs and sofa and the remaining somewhat severe furniture of the room could not chill. It was the hearth and mantel that had decided Mrs. Macgregor and Shock in their purchase of the little cottage, which in many eyes was none too desirable. On the walls hung old-fashioned prints of Robbie Burns and his Highland Mary, the Queen and the Prince Consort, one or two quaint family groups, and over the mantel a large portrait of a tall soldier in full Highland dress. Upon a bracket in a corner stood a glass case enclosing a wreath of flowers wrought in worsted, and under it in a frame hung a sampler with the Lord's Prayer similarly wrought. On one side of the room stood a clock upon a shelf, flanked by the Family Bible and such books as "The Saint's Rest," "Holy Living," "The Fourfold State," "Scots Worthies," all ancient and well worn. On the other side stood a bookcase which was Shock's, and beside it a table where he did his work. Altogether it was a very plain room, but the fireplace and the shining candlesticks and the rag carpet on the floor redeemed it from any feeling of discomfort, while the flowers that filled the windows left an air of purity and sweetness.
"Come away, my lad, come away," said Mrs. Macgregor, who sat knitting by the fire. "The night is chill enough. Come away up to the fire."
"Thanks, Mrs. Macgregor," said Brown, "it does me good to look at you by the fire there with your knitting. When I'm an old man I only hope I'll have a cozy hearthstone like this to draw up to, and on the other side a cozy old lady like you with pink cheeks like these which I must now kiss."
"Tut, tut, it's a daft laddie you are whatever," said the old lady, blushing a little, but not ill-pleased. "Sit ye down yonder." Brown, ever since his illness, when Mrs. Macgregor and Shock had nursed him back from death's door two years ago, was one of the family, and, indeed, he used endearments with the old lady that the undemonstrative Shock would never have dared to use. "Ye're late, Hamish. Surely yon man had much to say," said his mother, looking lovingly upon her great, sturdy son.
"That he had, mother, and great it was, I can tell you."
Then Shock proceeded, after his habit, to give his mother a full share of what he had been enjoying. Mrs. Macgregor listened intently, pausing now and then in her knitting to ejaculate, "Well-a-well!" "Look at that, now!" "Hear to him!" When Shock had finished, Brown broke in: "It was truly magnificent, I assure you, Mrs. Macgregor, and the enthusiasm of the man! And his yarns! Oh, he is truly, great!"
"And what would he be doing at the college?" enquired the old lady. "There would not be much money there, I doubt."
"Men, mother, men," cried Shock with some excitement. "Volunteers for the Great West, and a hard time he is having, too, what with the foreign field, and needy vacancies in this country, and city pulpits, and the like."
Mrs. Macgregor sat silent, her needles flying fast and her lips pressed together.
"I wish you could have heard him, Mrs. Macgregor," said Brown, enthusiastically. "He has a tongue like a rasp, and at times it takes off the skin. That was fine, Shock, about the fellows who could not give him answer till they had asked the Lord about it. 'I find a good many men,' the old chap said, 'who, after anxiously enquiring as to the work expected of them, remuneration, prospects of advance, etc., always want to lay the matter before the Lord before giving their answer. And I am beginning to think that the Lord has some grudge against the West, for almost invariably He appears to advise these men to leave it severely alone.' Oh, it was great!" Little Brown hugged his knee in delight at the memory of that rasping tongue.
"But surely there are plenty of men," said Mrs. Macgregor a little impatiently, "for there's no want of them whateffer when a congregation falls vacant."
"That's so," replied Brown; "but you see he wants only first-class men—men ready for anything in the way of hardship, and not to be daunted by man or devil."
"Ou ay!" said the old lady, nodding her head grimly; "he will not be finding so many of yon kind."
"But it must be a great country," went on Brown. "You ought to bear him tell of the rivers with sands of gold, running through beds of coal sixty feet thick."
The old lady shook her cap at him, peering over her glasses. "Ye're a gay callant, and you will be taking your fun off me."
"But it's true. Ask Shock there."
"What?" said Shock, waking up from a deep study. Brown explained.
"Yes," said Shock. "The sands of the Saskatchewan are full of gold, and you know, mother, about the rivers in Cariboo."
"Ay, I remember fine the Cariboo, and Cariboo Cameron and his gold. But not much good did it do him, poor fellow."
"But," said Shock, gazing into the fire, "it was terrible to hear his tales of these men in the mines with their saloons and awful gambling places, and the men and women in their lonely shacks in the foot-hills. My! I could see them all."
Mrs. Macgregor looked sharply into her son's face, then laying her knitting down in her lap she turned to him and said severely, "And what took them out yonder? And did they not know what-na country it was before they went out?"
"Yes," said Shock, still looking into the fire, "but there they are, Mother, there they are, and no living soul to speak a good word to them."
"Well then," said the old lady, even more impatiently, "let them put up with it, as better before them have done to their credit, ay, and to their good as well."
"Meantime the saloons and worse are getting them," replied Shock, "and fine fellows they are, too, he says."
"And is yon man wanting the lads from the college to go out yonder to those terrible-like mines and things so far from their homes? Why does he not send the men who are wanting places?" Mrs. Macgregor's tone was unusually sharp. Both Shock and Brown looked at her in surprise.
"Yes, you may look," she went on, "but I say let them that's not needed here go out yonder, and there will be plenty of them, I warrant."
"'And they'd none of them be missed,'" sang Brown.
"I doubt they wouldn't do," said Shock, shaking his head sadly.
"Well, mother," cried Brown, "you'll have a chance of hearing him yourself to-morrow morning, for he is going to preach in your church, I see."
The old lady shrugged her shoulders. "Indeed, and I wish our meenister wouldn't be so ready with his pulpit for every Bill and Bob that comes the way. He will not be needing a rest again, will he?"
Shock gazed at his mother in sheer amazement. He had never seen her like this before. This bitter impatience was so unlike her usual calm, dignified self-control.
"But mother," he ventured, "the cause will be needing money and the people will need to hear about it, surely."
"Oh, as to that," she answered in a relieved tone, "it is not much that we can give, but what we can we will, and, indeed, there are many of them in that Kirk that would be the better of giving a little of their money. But, lad," she added as if dismissing a painful subject, "you must be at your books."
"Which means I must go. I know you, Mother Macgregor," said Brown, using his pet name for the woman who had for two years been more of a mother to him than his own.
"Ay, and within a few weeks you will be wishing, as well, that someone had set you to your books, for the examinators will be upon you."
"And, doubtless, shear me as bare as Delilah did Samson of old. But I am not promising you I am going to work. My physician warns me against work on Saturday nights, so I am going to hunt up The Don."
"Indeed then, you will know well where to look for him," said the old lady shrewdly.
"Ah, mother, you're too sharp for any of us. Not much escapes your eyes."
"Indeed, one does not require eyes to see some things, and yon laddie is daft enough."
"Daft's the word," said Brown, "and has been for the last three years. Is not it astonishing and profoundly humiliating," he added solemnly, "to see a chit of a girl, just because she has brown curls and brown eyes with a most bewildering skill in using them, so twiddle a man? It passes my comprehension."
The old lady shook her head at him. "Wait you, my lad. Your day will come."
"I hear The Don has got the offer of a great appointment in connection with the new railway in that country and I fear that means trouble for him. There are those who would be delighted to see him out of the way for a couple of years or so."
But the old lady would not gossip, so Brown was forced to drop the subject with the remark, "But I'll do what I can to assist the Fates, and I'll begin by bringing both those young ladies to hear your big gun to-morrow if I can, Shock. They ought to know more about their own country."
Shock glanced up quickly as if to speak, but seemed to think better of it and poked the fire instead.
"I doubt they would be more profited in their own church," said Mrs. Macgregor. "'Traivellin' sheep are sair tae keep,' as they say in the South country. No, it's little enough the poor things will be getting in yon church of theirs with their read prayers and their bit sairmon—a sairmonette, they will be calling it. Ay, a sairmonette!" The old lady indulged herself in a quiet chuckle of indescribable contempt.
"Why, mother," said Shock in a reproving tone, "don't you know that their minister is just a splendid preacher. There is no better in the city."
"And that's not saying much," said the old lady. "But I'm glad to hear it."
"My! mother, but you are censorious to-night. You can't expect to find men like Candlish, Chalmers, and Macdonald of Ferintosh in every age."
"Ay," said the old lady with an emphatic shake of her head, "and that's a true word. Men like yon are not to be found, and like McCheyae and Burns and Guthrie and the rest of them. Oh! it iss manys the Sabbath morning when I wass a lass that I walked with my shoes and stockings in my hand down the glen to hear these men preach. And yon was the preaching. Yon was the preaching. None of your puny, peeping, fifteen-meenute sairmonettes, but preaching, terrible heart-smiting preaching." The old lady had ceased her knitting and was sitting erect in her chair gazing straight before her. The young men sat silent, fearing to break the spell that was upon her, and waiting eagerly for what they knew was coming.
"Man! man!" she continued, "those were the days! and those were the men! I have heard such preaching as would cause your heart to quake within you, and make you to listen with the fear of death upon you lest it should stop."
"It must have been terrible preaching, indeed," said Brown softly.
"Terrible! ay, terrible's the word. Lad, lad," said the old lady, turning upon Brown her piercing blue-grey eyes, "in the old Mullin Church I have seen the very rafters throbbing, and strong men and women swaying like the tree-tops in the glen while Burns was raging forth upon them like the Tummel in spate, while visions of the eternal things—the throne of God and the Judgment Day—filled our eyes." She paused a few moments and then sinking back into her chair she went on, "Ay, terrible preaching, yon, like the storm-blast sweeping the hillsides and rending the firs in the Pass. Yes! yes! But gentle at times and winning, like the rain falling soft at night, wooing at the bluebells and the daisies in the glen, or like a mother croonin over the babe at her breast, till men wept for love and longing after Himself. Ay, lad, lad, yon was the preaching."
There was a long silence while they waited for her to continue.
"What was that sermon, mother, at Mullin that time upon the words 'Will ye also go away?' you remember?" at length asked Shock cunningly.
His mother sighed. "Ay, and that was a sairmon to draw the heart out o' you. That was the melting day, while the big men gripped their sticks hard and the women wiped at their eyes that would never be done running, and that man's voice soughing over them like the wind in the pines in the evening, Yes! yes! But," suddenly recalling herself, "come, lads, you must be off to your books."
The young men sat a few moments silently gazing into the fire, and then Brown rose and said, "Good-night, mother. You're the greatest preacher I know, and I would not mind a whole hour from you." His voice was earnest and his eyes soft and tender as he stooped and kissed her cheek.
"Good-night, laddie," answered Mrs. Macgregor, patting his hand gently. "I doubt, after all, the fault nowadays is not with the preaching so much as with the hearing."
"Well, I'm off. You will see me to-morrow with my flock of straying sheep. But I warn you that after you hear that man from the West you will all be volunteering as missionaries."
The old lady took up her knitting again and after the door had closed upon Brown sat back in her chair with a weary sigh.
"You're tired to-night, mother," said Shock gently.
"Tired? And what for would I be tired? No, no, but the day is long."
"Yes, some days, mother. But the longest pass."
She glanced quickly at her son, but save for a quivering of the lips usually so firm, there was no sign of the pain which both knew lay at the heart of each. Her mood of impatience had passed. She was once more herself, calm and strong, looking with steadfast eyes into the future, knowing well that whatever the days might bring, He who for fifty years had been her refuge and her strength would not fail her.
The appeal for the West was the theme of conversation at the Fairbanks home, where the usual company had assembled. The Don was describing the Superintendent's address at the College and thrilling his listeners with his own enthusiasm, when Brown entered.
"Hello! At it again?" cried Brown. "If he doesn't avoid that fiery cross fellow, The Don will be off for the West first thing you know."
"Tell us," cried Betty, "was he as great as all that? Mr. Balfour here would have us believe that this Western man is really something wonderful."
"Well, I don't know," said Brown. "You never think of whether he is wonderful or not, but one thing I know, he makes you see things—the mountains and that foot-hill country, the mining camps and all that saloon and gambling-hell business, till you can smell the brimstone and you want to be in it."
"What? Into the brimstone?" laughed Lloyd.
"I am rather incoherent, I confess. But that old chap suits me. If I were a Theologue, and unattached, I'd be there."