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The Dozen from Lakerim By Rupert Hughes Characters: 13007

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


There was just time to dump his trunk into the baggage-car, and bundle him and his bundles on to the platform, before the train steamed away; and the eleven Lakerimmers were so busy waving farewell to the waving and farewelling crowd at the station that it was some minutes before they could find time to learn how Sawed-Off came to be among them. When he explained that he had made arrangements to work his way through the Academy, they took no thought for the hard struggle in front of him, they were so glad to have him along. Jumbo and he sat with their arms around each other all the way to Kingston, their hearts too full for anything but an occasional "Hooray!"

The journey to Kingston brought no adventures with it-except that History, of course, had lost his spectacles and his ticket, and had to borrow money of Pretty to keep from being put off the train, and that when they reached Kingston they came near forgetting Sleepy entirely, for he had curled up in a seat, and was reeling off slumber at a faster rate than the train reeled off miles.

The first few days at Kingston were so busily filled with entrance examinations and selection of rooms and the harder selection of room-mates and other furniture that the Dozen saw little of each other, except as they crunched by along the gravel walks of the campus or met for a hasty meal in the dining-hall. This dining-hall, by the way, was managed by an estimable widow named Mrs. Slaughter, and of course the boys called it the "Slaughter-house," a name not so far from the truth, when one considers the way large, tough roasts of beef and tons of soggy corned beef were massacred by the students.

It might be a good idea to insert here a little snap shot of Kingston Academy. The town itself was a moth-eaten old village that claimed a thousand inhabitants, but could never have mustered that number without counting in all the sleepy horses, mules, cows, and pet dogs that roamed the streets like the rest of the inhabitants. The chief industry of the people of Kingston seemed to be that of selling school-books, mince-pies, and other necessaries of life to the boys at the Academy. The grown young men of the town spent their lives trying to get away to some other cities. The younger youth of the town spent their lives trying to interfere with the pleasures of the Kingston academicians. So there were many of the old-time "town-and-gown" squabbles; and it was well for the health of the Kingston Academy boys that they rarely went around town except in groups of two or three; and it was very bad for the health of any of the town fellows if they happened to be caught within the Academy grounds.

The result of being situated in a half-dead village, which was neither loved nor loving, did not make life at the Academy tame, but quite the opposite; for the boys were forced to find their whole entertainment in the Academy life, and in one another, and the campus was therefore a little republic in itself-a Utopia. Like every other republic, it had its cliques and its struggles, its victories and its defeats, its friendships and its enmities, and everything else that makes life lively and lifelike.

The campus was beautiful enough and large enough to accommodate its citizens handsomely. Its trees were many and tall, venerable old monarchs with foliage like tents for shade and comfort to any little groups that cared to lounge upon the mossy divans beneath. The grounds were spacious enough to furnish not only football and baseball fields and tennis-courts, but meadows where wild flowers grew in the spring, and a little lake where the ice grew in the winter. Miles away-just enough to make a good "Sabbath day's journey"-was a wonderful region called the "Ledges," where glaciers had once resided, and left huge boulders, scratched and scarred. As Jumbo put it, it seemed, from the chasms and caves and curious distortions of stone and soil, that "nature must have once had a fit there.".

Most of the buildings of the Academy looked nearly old enough to have been also deposited there by the primeval glaciers, but they were huge and comfortable, and so many colonies of boys had romped and ruminated there, and so much laughter and so much lore had soaked into the old walls, that they were pleasanter than any newer and more gorgeous architecture could possibly be. They were homely in the better as well as the worse sense.

But this is more than enough description, and you must imagine for yourselves how the Lakerim eleven, often as they thought of home, and homesick as they were in spite of themselves now and then, rejoiced in being thrown on their own resources, and made somewhat independent citizens in a little country of their own. Unwilling to make selections among themselves, more unwilling to select room-mates from the other students (the "foreigners," as the Lakerimmers called them), they drew lots for one another, and the lots decided that they should room together thus: Tug and Punk were on the ground floor of the building known as South College, in room No. 2; in the room just over them were Quiz and Pretty; and on the same floor, at the back of the building, were Bobbles and Reddy (Reddy insisted upon this room because it had a third bedroom off its study-room; while, of course, he never expected to see Heady there, and didn't much care, of course, whether he came or not, still, a fellow never can tell, you know); on the same floor were B.J. and Jumbo. Jumbo did not stoop to flatter B.J. by pretending that he would not have preferred Sawed-Off for his room-mate; but Sawed-Off was working his way through, and the principal of the Academy had offered to help him out, not only with a free scholarship, but with a free room, as well, in Middle College, an old building which had the gymnasium on the first floor, the chapel on the second, and in the loft a single store-room fixed up as a bedroom.

The lots the fellows drew seemed to be in a joking mood when they selected History and Sleepy for room-mates-the hardest student and the softest, not only of the Dozen, but of the whole Academy. Sleepy had been too lazy to pay much heed when the diplomatic History had suggested their choosing room No. 13 for theirs, and he assented languidly. History had said that it was the brightest and sunniest room in the building, and if there was one thing that Sleepy loved almost better than baseball, it was a good snooze in the sun after he had worked hard stowing away a

ny of the three meals. His heart was broken, however, when he learned that the room chosen by the wily History was on the top floor, with three long flights to climb. After that you could never convince him that thirteen was not an unlucky number.

The Lakerimmers had thus managed quietly to ensconce themselves, all except Sawed-Off, in one building; and it was just as well, perhaps, that they did so establish themselves in a stronghold of their own, for they clung together so steadfastly that there was soon a deal of jealousy among the other students toward them, and all the factions combined together to try to keep the Lakerimmers from cabbaging any of the good things of academy life.

There was a craze of skylarking the first few weeks after the school opened. Almost every day one of the Lakerimmers would come back from his classes to find his room "stacked"-a word that exactly expresses its meaning. There is something particularly discouraging in going to your room late in the evening, your mind made up to a comfortable hour of reading on a divan covered with cushions made by your best girls, only to find the divan placed in the middle of the bed, with a bureau and a bookcase stuck on top of it, a few chairs and a pet bulldog tied in the middle of the mix-up, and a mirror and a well-filled bowl of water so fixed on the top of the heap that it is well-nigh impossible to move any one of the articles without cracking the looking-glass or dousing yourself with the water. The Lakerimmers tried retaliation for a time; but the pleasure of stacking another man's room was not half so great as the misery of unstacking one's own room, and they finally decided to keep two or three of the men always on guard in the building.

There was a rage for hazing, too, the first few weeks; and as the Lakerimmers were all new men in the Academy, they were considered particularly good candidates for various degrees of torment. Hazing was strictly against the rules of the Academy, but the teachers could not be everywhere at once, and had something to do besides prowl around the dark corners of the campus at all hours of the night. Some of the men furiously resisted the efforts to haze them; but when they once learned that their efforts were vain, and had perforce to submit, none of them were mean enough to peach on their tormentors after the damage was done. The Lakerimmers, however, decided to resist force with force, and stuck by each other so closely, and barricaded their doors so firmly at night, when they must necessarily separate, that time went on without any of them being subjected to any other indignities than the guying of the other Kingstonians.

Sawed-Off had so much and such hard work to do after school hours that the whole Academy respected him too much to attempt to haze him, though he roomed alone in the old Middle College. Besides, his size was such that nobody cared to be the first one to lay hand on him.

* * * * *

There was just one blot on the happiness of the Dozen at Kingston. Tug and Punk and Jumbo had started the whole migration from Lakerim because they had been invited by the Kingston Athletic Association to join forces with the Academy. The magnificent game of football these three men had played in the last two years had been the cause of this invitation, and they had come with glowing dreams of new worlds to conquer. What was their pain and disgust to find that the captain of the Kingston team, elected before they came, had decided that he had good cause for jealousy of Tug, and had decided that, since Tug would probably win all his old laurels away from him if he once admitted him to the eleven, the only way to retain those laurels was to keep Tug off the team. When the Lakerim three, therefore, appeared on the field as candidates for the eleven, they were assigned to the second or scrub team. (The first team was generally called the "varsity," though of course it only represented an academy.)

The Lakerim three, though disappointed at first, determined to show their respect for discipline, and to earn their way; so they submitted meekly, and played the best game they could on the scrub. When the varsity captain, Clayton by name, criticized their playing in a way that was brutal,-not because it was frank, but because it was unjust,-they swallowed the poison as quietly as they could, and went back into the game determined not to repeat the slip that had brought upon them such a deluge of abuse.

It soon became evident, however, from the way Clayton neglected the mistakes of the pets of his own eleven, and his constant and petty fault-finding with the three Lakerimmers, that he was determined to keep them from the varsity, even if he had to keep second-rate players on the team, and even if he imperiled the Academy's chances against rival elevens.

When this unpleasant truth had finally soaked into their minds, the Lakerimmers grew very solemn; and one evening, when the whole eleven happened to be in room No. 2, and when the hosts, Tug and Punk, were particularly sore from the outrageous language used against them in the practice of the afternoon, Punk, who was rather easily discouraged, spoke up:

"I guess the only thing for us to do, fellows, is to pack up our duds and go back home. There's no chance for us here."

Tug, who was feeling rather muggy, only growled:

"Not on your life! I had rather be a yellow dog than a quitter."

Then he relapsed into a silence that reminded History of Achilles in his tent, though he was ungently told to keep still when he tried to suggest the similarity. Reddy was fairly sizzling with rage at the Clayton faction, and sang out:

"I move that we go round and throw a few rocks through Clayton's windows, and then if he says anything, punch his head for him."

This idea seemed to please the majority of the men, and they were instantly on their feet and rushing out of the door to execute their vengeance on the tyrant, when Tug thundered out for them to come back.

"I've got a better idea," he said, "and one that will do us more credit. I'll tell you what I am going to do: I am going to take this matter into my own hands, and drill that scrub team myself, and see if we can't teach the varsity a thing or two. I believe that, with a little practice and a little good sense, we can shove 'em off the earth."

This struck the fellows as the proper and the Lakerim method of doing things, and they responded with a cheer.

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