The Prospector by Ralph Connor
II. 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, be 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."