The Second Chance by Nellie L. McClung
Chapter XVIII. The Lacrosse Match
What's come of old Bill Lindsay and the Saxhorn fellers, say? I want to hear the old band play.
----James Whitcomb Riley.
The great event of the Pioneers' Picnic was the lacrosse match between Millford and Hillsboro. It was held at three o'clock in the afternoon, and everybody was there.
The Millford lacrosse boys were in serious financial difficulty-- "everything gone but their honour," as one sentimental member had put it, and if the columns of the Hillsboro Gazette were to be trusted, that was gone, too. But in the big game on this occasion they hoped to retrieve their fallen fortunes.
Everybody felt that the real business of the day had begun when the two lacrosse teams drew up on the field. The women had finished their clearing up after dinner, and piled rhubarb leaves on their baskets to keep the eatables cool for supper.
Bud Perkins and Teddy Watson were playing for Millford, and Mrs. Perkins, Mrs. Watson, and Aunt Kate were in a pleasurable state of excitement, though they told the other women over and over that lacrosse was a dangerous game, and they did not want the boys to play. Mrs. Breen, too, whose son Billy was Millford's trusty forward, experienced a thrill of motherly pride when she heard the crowd breaking into cheers as the Millford boys in their orange and black jerseys lined up on the field.
Pearl had gathered up her four brothers after dinner and washed them clean at the river, also made repairs on their drooping stockings and twisted collars, and, holding tight to Danny, marshalled them across the end of the field to where Arthur and Martha sat with Jim and Camilla, and Tom Motherwell and Nellie Slater.
Dr. Clay came driving around the end of the field. When he saw Pearl he stopped and asked her if she would come and sit in his buggy to watch the game.
"I can't leave the boys, thank you, doctor," she said; "there's been three of them lost since noon, and they've all got their good clothes on."
"Well, of course, we'll have to keep track of them, in that case," he said, smiling, "because it would be a real loss to lose them, clothes and all. I tell you what we'll do, Pearl. I'll give you the horse and buggy--pile them all in, and it will be the easiest way of minding them."
The doctor drove to a clear space where the boys would have a good view of the game, and then went away to get a bag of peanuts for them.
In the centre of the field the referee placed the ball between Bud Perkins's stick and McLaren's, of Hillsboro. There was a moment of intense excitement and then away went the ball toward Hillsboro's goal, half a dozen in pursuit. The whole field was alive with black and orange, blue and white, legs and arms and sticks darting in and out in a way that would make your eyes ache to follow them. Once the ball came to the side, causing a receding wave of fluttering muslin. Mrs. Maxwell, whose son had that shade of hair which is supposed to indicate a hasty temper, was shouting directions to him as loudly as she could. Mrs. Maxwell's directions were good ones, too, if Alec could only have followed them. "Shoot, Alec!" she called. "Shoot it in! Run, Alec! Shoot it in!"
Millford's only lawyer, the dignified and stately Mr. Hawkins, came majestically down the line, carrying a camp stool under his arm. He had found it necessary to change his position, incensed at the undignified behaviour of the Hillsboro girls, who had taken up their position on one side of the field and were taking a lively interest in the game. He had ventured a slight rebuke, whereupon the whole battery of their indignation had been trained on him, with the result that he withdrew hastily. He sat down just in front of Mrs. Perkins and Mrs. Watson, and began to take an interest in the game. The ball was near Millford's goal and a scrimmage was taking place, a solid knot of players that moved and writhed and twisted.
Suddenly Bud Perkins shot out from the others, carrying his stick high above his head as he, raced up the field. "Bud! Bud! Bud!" Millford cried in an ecstasy of hope and fear. He sprang, dodged, whirled, the whole field in pursuit, and then, when in line with Hillsboro's goal, he shot low and swift and sure!
A great cheer burst from the crowd, hats were thrown in the air, little boys turned handsprings, and Millford went stark, staring mad.
Mrs. Perkins was not naturally an excitable woman, and she looked the very soul of meekness in her respectable black dress and little black bonnet tied tightly under her chin, but if your only boy--the only living out of three--your boy that had been real delicate and hard to raise--if he had dodged the whole field and shot a goal, straight as a die, and the whole town were cheering for him, mad with joy, you might have been roused a bit, too. When Mrs. Perkins came to herself she was pounding her parasol on the broad, dignified shoulders of Millford's most stately citizen, Mr. E. Cuthbert Hawkins, who moved away rather haughtily.
Over near the lemonade booth, Bud's father was explaining to an interested group just how Bud came to be such a smart boy.
"Young Bud has never worked the way his dad did," he said. "I ain't like some men that rob the cradle for farm hands and puts little lads building roads when they are so small they have to be weighted down with stones in their pockets to keep them from blowin' away. Young Bud has run in the pasture all his life, you may say, and it would be queer if he hadn't some speed in him. He comes of pretty good stock, let me tell you, registered in every strain, if I do say it. Look at that for a well-rounded leg!" Mr. Perkins made it easy for every one to do so. "Eighteen inches around the calf, and tapered to the toe!" He patted it lovingly. "I tell you, there was action there a few years ago!"
Meanwhile the play went on faster than ever. Hillsboro scored a goal through the Millford goal-keeper's stick breaking, and the score stood one to one until within fifteen minutes of the time. The Millford boys were plainly nervous. Victory meant the district championship, and confusion to their enemies.
The game was close and hard--no long throws--every inch contested--it had ceased to be a game, it was a battle! One minute the ball went close to Millford's goal and Mrs. Watson and Mrs. Perkins clutched each other's hands in wordless dread; but the wiry form of Teddy Watson shot up in the air and the ball bounced back into the Millford captain's stick. As he ran along the edge of the crowd with it, one of the Hillsboro girls slashed at him viciously with her red parasol. The captain passed the ball safely to Alec Maxwell, whose red hair made him a shining mark for the Hillsboro girls. But Sandy was not a bit disconcerted by their remarks. Big Dave Hunter, his check, was after him. Big Dave was a powerfully built fellow with a chest like a Clyde and a cheerful expanse of freckles. As Alec Maxwell threw the ball to Bud Perkins, Big Dave's long reach intercepted it, and then he made one of those grand rushes for which he was known and dreaded by his opponents, and which are still remembered by the old boys who played the game. This time Dave's good old trick miscarried, for Teddy Watson, slender as he was, neatly body-checked him--the ball fell from his stick into that of Alec Maxwell, who, boring his way through the Hillsboro defence, shot on goal and scored.
The home crowd went wild with cheers, for time was up, and the score stood two to one in Millford's favour. Thomas Perkins was hilarious. "Come on, John!" he said to John Watson, "let's have a little Schlitz. I never take anything stronger now, since the boy grew up. What! You don't drink Schlitz? It's harmless as hay-tea, but perhaps you're right."