16. Something About A Cane
 

But if Koswell and Larkspur were guilty, they kept very quiet about it, and the Rover boys were unable to prove anything against them. The bill for the cut-up tire came to Dick, and he paid it.

The college talk was now largely about football, and one day a notice was posted that all candidates for admission on the big eleven should register at the gymnasium.

"I think I'll put my name down," said Tom.

"And I'll do the same," returned Dick, "but I doubt if well get much of a show, since they know nothing of our playing qualities here."

There were about thirty candidates, including thirteen who had played on the big team before. But two of these candidates were behind in then studies, and had to be dropped, by order of the faculty.

"That leaves a full eleven anyway of old players," said Sam. "Not much hope for you," he added to his brothers.

"They'll do considerable shifting; every college team does," said Dick; and he was right. After a good deal of scrub work and a general sizing up of the different candidates, four of the old players were dropped, while another went to the substitutes' bench.

It was now a question between nine of the new candidates, and after another tryout Dick was put in as a guard, he having shown an exceptional fitness for filling that position. Tom got on the substitutes' bench, which was something, if not much. Then practice began in earnest, for the college was to play a game against Roxley, another college, on a Saturday, ten days later.

"I hope you win, Dick," said Sam, "And it's a pity you didn't get on the gridiron, Tom," he continued.

"Oh, I'll get on, sooner or later," answered Tom with a grin. "Football is no baby play, and somebody is bound to get hurt."

"You're not wishing that, are you?" asked Songbird.

"No, indeed! But I know how it goes. Haven't I been hurt myself, more than once?"

The football game was to take place at Brill, on the athletic field, and the college students were privileged to invite a certain number of their friends. The Rovers promptly invited Dora, Nellie and Grace, and it was arranged that Sam should see to it that the girls got there.

"Sam will have as good a time as anybody," said Tom. "He'll have the three girls all to himself."

"Well, you can't have everything in this world," replied the youngest Rover with a grin. "I guess football honors will be enough for you this time."

"If we win," put in Dick. "I understand Roxley has a splendid eleven this season. They won out at Stanwell yesterday, 24 to 10."

"I hear they are heavier than we are," said Tom. "At least ten pounds to the man. That is going to count for something."

At that moment William Philander Tubbs came up. He was attired, as usual, in the height of fashion, and sported a light gold-headed cane.

"For gracious sake, look at Tubby!" exclaimed Sam. "Talk about a fashion plate!"

"Hello, Billy boy!" called out Tom. "Going to make a social call on your washerwoman?"

"No. He's going to town to buy a pint of peanuts," said Sam.

"I thought he might be going to a funeral-dressed so soberly," added Dick, and this caused a general laugh, for Tubbs was attired in a light gray suit, patent leathers with spats, and a cream-colored necktie, with gloves to match.

"How do you do?" said William Philander politely, as if he had not seen the others in the classrooms an hour before. "Pleasant day."

"Looks a bit stormy to me," answered Dick, as he saw several sophomores eyeing Tubbs angrily. It was against the rule of Brill for a freshman to carry a cane.

"Stormy, did you say?" repeated the dude in dismay. "Why, I--ah-- thought it very fine, don't you know. Perhaps I had better take an-- ah--umbrella instead of this cane.

"It would be much safer," returned Dick significantly.

"But I--ah--don't see any clouds," went on William Philander, gazing up into the sky.

"They are coming," cried Tom.

"Stand from under!" called out Sam.

And then the "clouds" did come, although not the kind the dude anticipated. Six sophomores came up behind Tubbs, and while two caught him by the arms a third wrenched the gold-headed cane from his grasp.

"Hi! hi! Stop that, I say!" cried William Philander in alarm. "Let me alone! Give me back my cane!"

"You don't get this cane back, freshie," answered one of the second- year students.

"You must give it to me! Why, Miss Margaret DeVoe Marlow gave me that cane last summer, when we were at Newport. I want--"

"No more cane for you, freshie!" was the cry. And then, to Tubbs' untold horror, one of the sophomores placed the cane across his knee as if to break it in two.

"Don't you break that cane! Don't you dare to do it!" cried the dude, and then he commenced to struggle violently, for the cane was very dear to him, being a birthday gift from one of his warmest lady friends. In the scuffle which followed William Philander had his collar and necktie torn from him and his coat was split up the back.

"Say, this is going too far!" cried Dick, and then he raised his voice: "Freshmen to the rescue!"

"This is none of your affair," growled the sophomore who had led the attack on Tubbs.

"Don't break that cane!" cried Tom. "If you do somebody will get a bloody nose!"

"We'll do as we please!" cried several second-year students.

Then Tom and Sam rushed for the cane and got hold of it. Two sophomores held fast on the other side, and a regular tug-of-war ensued. In the meantime other sophomores were making life miserable for Tubbs. They took his hat and used it for a football, and threw the dude on his back and piled on top of him until he thought his ribs were going to be stove in.

"What's the row?" The call came from Stanley, and he and Max appeared, followed by Songbird and several others.

"Attack on Tubblets!" called Tom. "To the rescue, everybody! Save the cane!"

And then a crowd of at least twelve students surrounded the cane, hauling and twisting it this way and that. It was a determined but good-natured crowd. The sophomores felt they must break the offending stick into bits, while the freshmen considered it the part of honor to save the same bit of wood from destruction.

At last Sam saw his chance, and with a quick movement he leaped directly on the shoulders of one of the second-year students. As the fellow went down he caught hold of two of his chums to save himself. This loosened the hold on the cane, and in a twinkling Sam, aided by Stanley, had it in his possession. He leaped down and started on a run for the dormitory.

"After him! Get the cane!"

"Don't let him get away with it!"

"Nail him, somebody!"

So the cries rang out. Several sophomores tried to head the youngest Rover off, but he was too quick for them. He dodged to the right and the left, and hurled one boy flat. Then he ran around a corner of a building, mounted the steps to a side door, and disappeared from view.

"Hurrah for Sam Rover!"

"Say, that was as good as a run on the football field!"

"That's the time the sophs got left."

"Hi! Where's my cane?" howled William Philander, gazing around in perplexity as soon as the second-year students let go of him.

"Sam has it," answered Tom. "And it wasn't broken, either," he added with pride.

"But--ah--why did he--ah--run away with it?" queried Tubbs innocently.

"To stop the slaughter of the innocents," answered Dick. "He'll give it back to you later. But don't try to carry it again," went on Dick in a low voice.

"Just look at me!" moaned William Philander as he gazed at the wreck of his outfit. "Look at this tie--and it cost me a dollar and seventy-five cents!"

"Be thankful you weren't killed," answered a sophomore. "Don't you know better than to carry a cane."

"I--ah--fancy I'll carry a cane if I wish," answered Tubbs with great dignity.

"Not around Brill," answered several.

"And--ah--why not?"

"Because you're a freshie, that's why. You can wear the colors-- because of the necktie rush--but you can't carry a cane."

"Oh--ah--so that's it!" cried William Philander, a light breaking in on him. "But why didn't you come up politely and tell me so, instead of rushing at me like a--ah--like mad bulls? It was very rude, don't you know."

"Next time we'll send you a scented note by special liveried messenger," said one of the second-year students in disgust.

"We'll have it on engraved paper, too," added another.

"Thank you. That will be--ah--better," replied William Philander calmly. "But look at my suit," he continued, and gave a groan. "I can't--ah--make any afternoon calls to-day, and I was going to a pink tea--"

"Wow! A pink tea, boys!" yelled one of the boys. "Wouldn't that rattle your back teeth?"

"Never mind, Tubby. The cook will give you a cup of coffee instead," said Tom.

"I should think you'd feel blue instead of pink," added Spud Jackson.

"Sew up the coat with a shoestring, and let it go at that," suggested Max.

"If you want to paste that collar fast again I've got a bottle of glue," said Songbird.

"Now--ah--don't you poke fun at me!" stormed William Philander. "Haven't I suffered enough already?"

"Why, we're not poking fun; we're weeping," said Tom, and pretended to wipe his eyes with his handkerchief.

"I am so sorry I could eat real doughnuts," said Dick.

"Maybe you want to send a substitute to that pink tea," came from Stanley. "You might call on Professor Sharp."

"Or Pinkey, the watchman," said Max. "He'll do it for a quarter, maybe."

"I--ah--don't want any substitute," growled William Philander. "I-- ah--think you are--ah--very rude, all of you. I am going back to my room, that is what I am going to do."

  "Don't be angry, William, darling!

  Wipe the raindrops from your eyes.

  All your sorrows will be passing

  When you're eating Christmas pies!"

At this Tom began to sing softly:

"You stop that--you mean thing!" burst out the dude, and then turning, he almost ran for the dormitory, the laughter of the students ringing out loudly after him.