Chapter VIII. Sahwah Makes a Basket.
 

The game between the Washington High School and the Carnegie Mechanics Institute, which was to decide the girls' basketball championship of the city, was scheduled for the 15th of February. Up until this year Washington High had never come within sight of the championship. Then this season something had happened to the Varsity team which had made it a power to be reckoned with among the schools of the city. That something was Sahwah. Thanks to her playing, Washington High had not lost a single game so far. Her being put on the team was purely due to chance. Sahwah was a Junior and the Varsity team were all Seniors. She was a member of the "scrub" or practice team and an ardent devotee of the sport. During one of the early games of the season Sahwah was sitting on the side lines attentively watching every bit of play.

The game was going against the Washington, due to the fact that their forwards were too slow to break through the guarding of the rival team. Sahwah saw the weakness and tingled with a desire to get into the game and do some speed work. As by a miracle the chance was given her. One of the forwards strained her finger slightly and was taken from the game. Her substitute, who had been sitting next to Sahwah, had left her seat and gone to the other end of the gymnasium. The instructor, who was acting as referee, in her excitement mistook Sahwah for the substitute and called her out on the floor. Sahwah wondered but obeyed instantly and went into the game as forward. Then the spectators began to sit up and take notice. Sahwah had not been two minutes on the floor when she made a basket right between the arms of the tall guard. The ripple of surprise had hardly died away before she had made another. Then the baskets followed thick and fast. In five minutes of play she had tied the score. The guards could hardly believe their eyes when they saw this lithe girl slipping like an eel through their defense and caging the ball with a sure hand every time. The game ended with an overwhelming victory for the Washingtons and there was a new star forward on the horizon. Sahwah was changed from the practice team to the Varsity.

From that time forward Washington High forged steadily ahead in the race for the championship and as yet had no defeat on its record. However, Washington had a formidable rival in the Carnegie Mechanics Institute, which was also undefeated so far. The Mechanicals were slightly older girls and were known as a whirlwind team. Sahwah, who foresaw long ago that the supreme struggle would be between the Washingtons and the Mechanicals, attended the games played by the Mechanicals whenever she could and studied their style of playing. "Star players, every one," was her deduction, "but weak on team work." Sahwah was not so dazzled by her own excellence as a player that she could not recognize greatness in a rival, and she readily admitted that one of the girls who guarded for the Mechanicals was the best guard she had ever seen. This was Marie Lanning, whose cousin Joe was in Sahwah's class at Washington High. Sahwah knew instinctively that when the struggle came she would go up against this girl. The game would really be between these two. Washington's hope lay in Sahwah's ability to make baskets, and the hope of the Mechanicals was Marie's ability to keep her from making them. So she studied Marie's guarding until she knew the places where she could break through.

Marie Lanning also knew that it was Sahwah she would have to deal with. But there was a difference in the attitude of the girls toward each other. Sahwah regarded Marie as her opponent, but she respected her prowess. She had no personal resentment against Marie for being a good guard; she looked upon her as an enemy merely because she belonged to a rival school. Marie on the other hand actually hated Sahwah. Before Sahwah appeared on the scene she had been the greatest player in the Athletic Association, the heroine of every game. She was pointed out everywhere she went as "Marie Lanning, the basketball player." Now some of her glory was dimmed, for another star had risen, Sarah Ann Brewster, the whirlwind forward of the Washington High team, was threatening to overshadow her. It was a distinctly personal matter with her. Sahwah wanted to win that game so her school would have the championship; Marie wanted to win it for her own glory. She did not really believe that Sahwah was as great as she was made out. It was only because she had never run against a great guard that she had been able to roll up the score for Washington so many times. Well, she would find out a thing or two when she played the Mechanicals, Marie reflected complacently. She had never seen Sahwah play, and if any one had suggested that it would be a good thing to watch her tactics she would have been very scornful. She was confident in her own powers.

Then there came a rather important game of Washington High's on a night when Marie was visiting her cousin Joe. He had tickets for the game and took her along. Now for the first time she beheld her foe. After watching Sahwah's marvelous shots at the basket and the confusion of the girl who was guarding her, Marie began to feel uneasy. It now seemed to her that Sahwah's powers had been underestimated in the reports instead of over-estimated. The game ended just as all the others had done, with a great score for Washington High and Sahwah the idol of the hour. Marie looked on with a slight sneer when Sahwah, after the game was over, frankly congratulated the losing team on their playing, which had been pretty good throughout. "Do you know," said Sahwah straightforwardly, "that if you had had a little better team work, I don't believe we could have beaten you."

"Any day we could have won with you in the game," said one of the losers, "the way you can shoot that ball into the basket."

Without being at all puffed up by this compliment, Sahwah proceeded to make her point. "My throwing the ball into the basket wasn't what won the game," she said simply, "it was the fact that I had it to throw. It's all due to the girls who see that I get it. It's team work that wins every time and not individual starring." Thus was Sahwah in the habit of disclaiming the credit of victory.

Joe brought up Marie Lanning and introduced her. "So this is my deadly enemy," said Sahwah pleasantly. Marie acknowledged the introduction politely, but while her lips smiled her eyes had a steely glitter. Sahwah was surrounded by a crowd of admiring friends at this time and there was no chance for further conversation, and she did not become aware of Marie's animosity. "We'll meet again," Sahwah said meaningly, with a pleasant laugh, as Marie and Joe turned to go. "That is," she added with a humorous twinkle, "if I don't go down in my studies and get myself debarred from playing."

"Fine chance of your going down," said Joe.

"Oh, I don't know," laughed Sahwah; "it all depends on whether I get my Physics notebook in by the First." A shout of laughter greeted this remark. The idea of Sahwah's getting herself debarred on account of her studies was too funny for words.

"Well," said Joe to Marie when they were outside the building, "that's the girl you're going to have to play against. What do you think of her?" In his heart Joe thought that his cousin Marie would have no trouble holding Sahwah down.

"She's a great deal faster than I thought," said Marie with a thoughtful frown.

"But you can beat her, can't you?" asked Joe anxiously. "You've got to. I've staked my whole winter's allowance that you would win the championship."

"I didn't know that you were in the habit of betting," said Marie a little disdainfully.

"I never did before," said Joe, "but some of the fellows were saying that nobody could hold out against that Brewster girl and I said I bet my cousin could, and so we talked back and forth until I offered to bet real money on you."

Marie was flattered at this, as her kind would be. "I can beat her," she said, but there was fear in her heart. "Oh, if she would only be debarred from the game!" she exclaimed eagerly.

But Sahwah had no intentions of being put out on that score. She applied herself assiduously to the making of the notebook that was required as the resume of the half year's work. She finished it a whole day ahead of time, and then, Sahwah-like, was so pleased with herself that she decided to celebrate the event. "Come over to the house to-night," she said to various of her girl and boy friends in school that day. "I'm entertaining in honor of my Physics notebook!"

When the guests arrived the notebook was enthroned on a gilded easel on the parlor table and decorated with a wreath of flowers and a card bearing the inscription "Endlich!" The very ridiculousness of the whole affair was enough to make every one have a good time. The Winnebagos were there, and some of their brothers and cousins, and Dick Albright and Joe Lanning and several more boys from the class. Naturally much of the conversation turned on the coming game, and Sahwah was solemnly assured that she would forfeit their friendship forever if she did not win the championship for the school. School spirit ran high and songs and yells were practiced until the neighbors groaned. Joe Lanning joined in the yells with as much vigor as any. No one knew that he was secretly on the side of the Mechanicals.

Sahwah's notebook came in for inspection and much admiration, for she was good at Physics and her drawings were to be envied. "I see you have a list of all the problems the class has done this year," said Dick Albright, looking through the notebook. "Do you mind if I copy them from your list? I lost the one Fizzy gave us in class and it'll take me all night to pick them out from the ones in the book."

"Certainly, you may," said Sahwah cordially. "Take it along with you and bring it to school in the morning. It'll be all right as long as I get it in by that time. But don't forget it, whatever you do, unless you want to see me put out of the game." Joe Lanning wished fervently that Dick would forget to bring it. The party broke up and the boys and girls prepared to depart.

"What car do you take, Dick?" asked one of the boys.

"I don't think I'll take any," said Dick. "I'll just run around the corner with this lady," he said, indicating Migwan, "and then I'll walk the rest of the way."

"Isn't it pretty far?" asked some one else.

"Not the way I go," answered Dick. "I take the short cut through the railway tunnel." Joe Lanning's eyes gleamed suddenly.

The good-nights were all said and Sahwah shut the door and set the furniture straight before she went to bed. "Didn't your friends stay rather late?" asked her mother from upstairs.

"No," said Sahwah, "I don't think so, it's only--why, the clock has stopped," she finished after a look at the mantel, "I don't know what time it is."

"Get the time from the telephone operator," said her mother, "and set the clock."

Sahwah picked up the receiver. There was a strange buzzing noise on the wire. "Zig-a-zig, ziz-zig-zig-a-zig, zig-g-g, zig-g-g, zig-g-g-g." Puzzled at first, she soon recognized what it was. It was the sound of Joe Lanning's wireless. Joe lived directly back of Sahwah on the next street, and the aerial of his wireless apparatus was fastened to the telephone pole in the Brewsters' yard. Joe was "sending," and the vibrations were being picked up by the telephone wires and carried to her ear when she had the receiver down. Sahwah understood the wireless code the boys used, and, in fact, had both sent and received messages. She knew it was Joe's custom to listen for the time every night as it was flashed out from the station at Arlington, and then send it to his friend Abraham Goldstein, a young Jewish lad in the class, who also had a wireless. Then the two would send each other messages and verify them the next day. "Oh, what fun," thought Sahwah; "I can get Arlington time to-night." She asked the operator to look up a new number for her to keep her off the line and then got out paper and pencil to take down the message as it went out. As she deciphered it she gasped in astonishment. She had expected a message something on this order: "Hello, Abraham--how are you?--Arlington says ten bells--How's the weather in your neck of the woods?" Instead the words were entirely different. She could not believe her eyes as she made them out. "Albright going through railway tunnel--hold him up--get notebook away--keep Brewster out of game." Her senses reeled as she understood the meaning of the message. That Joe was plotting against her when he pretended to be a friend cut her to the quick. For a moment her lip quivered; then her nature asserted itself. There was a thing to do and she must do it. Dick must be kept from going through the tunnel. Turning out the lights downstairs, she crept noiselessly out of the house, found her brother's bicycle on the porch and pedaled off after Dick. She knew exactly the way he would take. From Migwan's house he would go up Adams to Locust Street and from there to ----th Avenue, and keep on going until he came to the dark tunnel. Sahwah nearly burst with indignation when she thought of Joe's cowardly conduct. He was calmly getting Abraham to do the dirty work for him, so he would never be suspected of having anything to do with it in case Dick recognized Abraham. She could see how the thing would work out. Abraham lived just the other side of the tunnel. All he would have to do would be to stand in the shadow of the tunnel, jump out on Dick as he came through, seize the notebook from his hand, and run away before Dick knew what had happened. There would be no need of fighting or hurting him. But Joe's end would be accomplished and Washington would lose the game. The fact that he was a traitor to the school hurt Sahwah ten times worse than the injury he was trying to do her. "Even if his cousin is on the other side, he belongs to Washington," she repeated over and over to herself.

Down Locust Street she flew and along deserted ----th Avenue. It was bitterly cold riding, but she took no notice. Far ahead of her she could see Dick walking briskly toward the fatal tunnel. Pedaling for dear life she caught up with him when he was still some distance from it. "Whatever is the matter?" he asked, startled, as she flung herself breathless from the wheel beside him.

"The notebook," she said. "Joe's trying to get it away from you. He's got Abraham Goldstein waiting in the tunnel to snatch it as you go by."

Dick gave vent to a long whistle of astonishment. "Of all the underhand tricks!" he exclaimed when the full significance of Joe's act was borne in on him. He was stupefied to think that Joe was a traitor to the school. "That'll fix his chances of getting into the Thessalonians," he said vehemently. "His name is coming up next week to be voted on. Just wait until I tell what I know about him!"

Dick retraced his steps and took Sahwah home, where he left the precious notebook in her keeping to prevent any possibility of its getting lost before she could hand it in, and then took the streetcar and rode home the roundabout way, arriving there in safety. Abraham waited out in the cold tunnel for several hours and then gave it up and went home, feeling decidedly out of temper with Joe Lanning and his intrigues.

The game was held in the Washington High gymnasium. The gallery and all available floor space were packed long before the commencement of the game. The Carnegie Mechanics came out in a body to witness their team win the championship. Joe Lanning was there, entirely composed, though inwardly raging at the failure of his trick, which he attributed to Dick's changing his mind about walking home, never dreaming that Sahwah had intercepted his message and his treachery was known. Although his sympathies were with the Mechanicals he stood with the Washingtons and yelled their yells as loudly as any. The Mechanicals, as the visiting, team, came out on the floor first and had the first practice. They were fine looking girls, every one of them, with their dazzling white middies and blue ties. They were greeted with a ringing cheer from their rooters:

  "Me-chan-i,
  Me-chan-i,
  Me-chan-i-can-can,
  Me-chan-i-can-can,
  Me-chan-i-cals!"

Marie Lanning held up her head and looked self-conscious when she heard the familiar yell thundered at the team. It was meant mostly for herself, she was sure. She smiled proudly and graciously in the direction whence the yell had proceeded. Quiet had hardly fallen on the crowd when there was heard the sound of singing from the upper end of the gymnasium where the door to the dressing rooms was. The tune was "Old Black Joe":

  "We're coming, we're coming,
  Star players, every one,
  We're going to win the championship
  For Washington!"

Washington's rooters caught up the yell and made the roof ring. Sahwah's heart swelled when she heard it, not with the feeling that they were singing to her, but with pride because she belonged to a team which called out this expression of loyalty. Then came individual cheers, with her name at the head of the list.

  "One, two, three, four,
  Who are we for?
  BREWSTER!"

Not even then was Sahwah puffed up.

The Washington High team wore black bloomers and red ties; they were a brilliant sight as they marched in with their hands on each other's shoulders. The teams took their places; a hush fell on the crowd; the referee's whistle sounded; the ball went up. Washington's center knocked it toward her basket; Sahwah, darting out from under the basket, caught it, sent it flying back to center; center threw it to the other Washington forward; Sahwah jumped directly behind Marie Lanning, received the ball from the other forward and shot the basket. Time, one minute from the sending up of the ball. The Washington team machine was working splendidly. A deafening roar greeted the first score. Marie bit her lip angrily. She had vowed to keep Washington from scoring. But Sahwah had not watched Marie play for nothing. She saw that she put up a wonderful guard when confronting her girl, but she was not always quick in turning around. Sahwah's plan of action was to keep away from her as much as possible and to get hold of the ball when she was behind Marie's back and throw for the basket before Marie could turn around. Guarding is only effective when you have some one to guard and Marie discovered she was really playing a game of tag with Sahwah, who was continually running away from her. With the wonderful team work which the Washington team had developed and their perfect understanding of each other's movements, Sahwah could get widely separated from Marie and be sure to receive the ball at just the right moment to throw a basket. Twice she made it; three times; four times. Pandemonium reigned. "Guard her, Marie!" shrieked the Mechanicals.

The score stood 8 to in favor of Washington at the end of the first five minutes. Marie was white with rage. Was this a girl she was trying to guard, or was it an eel? She would get her cornered with the ball, Sahwah would measure Marie's height with her eye, locate the basket with a brief glance, stiffen her muscles for a jump, and then as Marie stood ready to beat down the ball, as it rose in the air, Sahwah would suddenly relax, twist into some inconceivable position, shoot the ball low to center and be a dozen feet away before Marie could get her hands down from the air.

  "B-R-E,
  DOUBLE-U, S,
  T-E-R,
  BREWSTER!"

sang the Washington rooters in ecstasy. It was maddening. There was no hope of keeping her from scoring. The time came when Sahwah and Marie both had their hands on the ball at the same time and it called for a toss-up. As the ball rose in the air Marie struck out as if to send it flying to center, but instead of that, her hand, clenched, with a heavy ring on one finger, struck Sahwah full on the nose. It was purely accidental, as every one could see. Sahwah staggered back dizzily, seeing stars. Her nose began to bleed furiously. She was taken from the game and her substitute put in. A groan went up from the Washington students as she was led out, followed by a suppressed cheer from the Carnegie Mechanics. Marie met Joe's eye with a triumphant gleam in her own.

Sahwah was beside herself at the thing which had happened to her. The game and the championship were lost to Washington. The hope of the team was gone. The girl who took her place was far inferior, both in skill in throwing the ball and in tactics. She could not make a single basket. The score rolled up on the Mechanicals' side; now it was tied. Sahwah, trying to stanch the blood that flowed in a steady stream, heard the roar that followed the tying of the score and ground her teeth in misery. The Mechanicals were scoring steadily now. The first half ended 12 to 8 in their favor. But if Marie had expected to be the heroine of the game now that Sahwah was out of it she was disappointed. The girl who had taken Sahwah's place required no skilful guarding; she would not have made any baskets anyhow, and there was no chance for a brilliant display of Marie's powers. Marie stood still on the floor after the first half ended, listening to the cheers and expecting her name to be shouted above the rest, but nothing like that happened. The yells were for the team in general, while the Washingtons, loyal to Sahwah to the last, cheered her to the echo.

The noise penetrated to the dressing room where she lay on a mat:

  "Ach du lieber lieber,
  Ach du lieber lieber,
  BREWSTER! No, ja, bum bum!
  Ach du lieber lieber,
  Ach du lieber lieber,
  BREWSTER! No, ja!"

Sahwah raised her head. Another cheer rent the air:

  "B-R-E,
  DOUBLE-U, S,
  T-E-R,
  BREWSTER!"

Sahwah sat up.

"BREWSTER! BREWSTER! WE WANT BREWSTER!" thundered the gallery. Sahwah sprang to her feet. Like a knight of old, who, expiring on the battlefield, heard the voice of his lady love and recovered miraculously, Sahwah regained her strength with a rush when she heard the voice of her beloved school calling her.

When the teams came out for the second half Sahwah came out with them. The gallery rocked with the joy of the Washingtonians. The whistle sounded; the ball went up; the machine was in working order again. Washington was jubilant; Carnegie Mechanics was equally confident now that it was in the lead. Sahwah played like a whirlwind. She shot the ball into the basket right through Marie's hands. Once! Twice! The score was again tied. "12 to 12," shouted the scorekeeper through her megaphone. Like the roar of the waves of the sea rose the yell of the Washingtonians:

  "Who tied the score when the score was rolling?
  Who tied the score when the score was rolling?
  Brewster, yes?
  Well, I guess!
  She tied the score when the score was rolling!"

Then Sahwah's luck turned and she could make no more baskets. She began to feel weak again and fumbled the ball more than once. Marie laughed sneeringly when Sahwah failed to score on a foul. The game was drawing to a close. "Two more minutes to play!" called the referee. The ball was under the Mechanicals' basket. The Washington guards got possession of it and passed it forward to Sahwah, who threw for the basket and missed. The ball came down right in the hands of Marie. The Mechanicals were excellently placed to pass it by several stages down to their basket. Instead of throwing it to center, however, she tried to make a grandstand play and threw it the entire length of the gymnasium to the waiting forward. It fell short and there was a wild scramble to secure it. Washington got it. "One minute to play!" called the referee. A score must be made now by one side or the other or the game would end in a tie. The Washington guard located Sahwah. The Mechanicals closed in around her so that she could not get away by herself. Marie towered over her triumphantly. At last had come the chance to use her famous method of guarding. The crowd in the gallery leaned forward, tense and silent. The Mechanicals' forwards ran back under their basket to be in position to throw the ball in when Marie should send it down to them. The Washington guard threw the ball toward the massed group in the center of the floor. As a tiger leaps to its prey, Sahwah, with a mighty spring, jumped high in the air and caught the ball over the heads of the blocking guards. Before the Mechanicals had recovered from their surprise she sent it whirling toward the distant basket. It rolled around the rim, hesitated for one breathless instant and then dropped neatly through the netting. It was a record throw from the field.

"Time's up," called the referee.

"Score, 14 to 12 in favor of Washington High," shouted the scorekeeper.

The pent-up emotions of the Washington rooters found vent in a prolonged cheer; then the crowd surged across the floor and surrounded Sahwah, and she was borne in triumph from the gymnasium.

Joe Lanning and his cousin Marie, avoiding the merry throng, left the building with long faces and never a word to say.