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   Chapter 10 THE GRIDIRON START

Dave Darrin's Third Year at Annapolis; Or, Leaders of the Second Class Midshipmen By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 7096

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


On the day of the game the midshipmen talked eagerly, and mostly of football, through dinner in the great messhall of the brigade.

"Did any one see the Hanniston infants arrive?" demanded Page.

"Infants, eh!" called Joyce from the next table. "That shows you didn't see the visiting eleven."

"Why? Are they of fair size?" asked Farley.

"It took two 'buses to bring the regular eleven, besides the subs and all the howlers," retorted Joyce. "And the regular eleven, I am reliably informed, tip the scales at four tons."

"Oh, come, now, Joyce, shave off a ton or two," protested Farley.

"I won't take off more than fifty pounds, sir," retorted Joyce with mock stubbornness. "Say! The Hanniston fellows are enormous."

"Then they've run all to bones and haven't any brains," grinned Dan. "After all, we don't mind mere bulk, for intelligence wins most of the games on the gridiron."

"As to their intelligence, I can't say," admitted Joyce. "At any rate, from the glimpse that I got of the Hans, I should say that they average two years older than our men."

"Let's throw up the sponge, then," proposed Dalzell demurely. "If we can't beat the visitors what's the use of playing them? It isn't even necessary to get into togs. We can send a note to the referee, and he can award the game to Hanniston."

"Fine!" broke in Hepson scornfully.

"However, I guess we aren't going to have any cinch to-day," joined in Midshipman Waite, from another table. "I have word from outside, by the way."

"What word?"

"Well, the Hanniston fellows have brought over some money with which to back up the howls they're making for their team. They're offering odds of ten to six that Hanniston wins."

"They stand to lose a lot of money," grinned Hepson.

"But here's the funny part of it," continued Waite. "You know, when the townspeople in Annapolis think they have a really good thing on us, they cover the money of visitors in any wagers on the games."

"Then here's hoping that the Annapolis townspeople win a lot to-day," laughed Midshipman Hepson.

"Yes, but," returned Waite, "what I hear from town is that the Annapolis townspeople have been driven to cover; that they aren't taking up the offers of the visiting Hanniston boys."

"Too bad!" sighed Dave Darrin. "And Annapolis needs the money so badly, too."

"Are we going to win?" asked Waite bluntly.

"Too early to tell you," replied Hepson coolly. "Ask me at supper to-night. But the townies won't wager any money on us this year, eh?"

"The Annapolis people have put up some, but not much," replied Waite.

"We're going to win, just the same," announced Dan Dalzell.

"Sure?" questioned several voices.

"Oh, yes! It's all settled now," laughed Midshipman Waite. "I've been waiting for Danny boy to tell us. Now, we know-we've heard from the hot-air meter."

There was a laugh in which Dan didn't join readily, though his face reddened considerably. Midshipman Dalzell was one of those who always believed that the Navy must win, just because it was the Navy. Some of the other midshipmen didn't go quite as far as that in their confidence.

"Better not call Danny boy names," advised Dave Darrin gravely. "He might be sulking at just the time when we need him this afternoon."

"That would be unmilitary," retorted Mr. Waite.

"Oh, no," said Dave lightly. "Even as good a soldier as Achilles sulked in his tent, you know."

"Achilles? What class was he in, then?" demanded Waite. "I don't remember the name."

"He was in a class of his

own, at the siege of Troy," volunteered Farley.

"Troy, N.Y.?" inquired Waite.

"If you keep on, Waite," muttered Farley, "someone will have to give you an ancient history book at Christmas. You don't seem well posted on Greek tales."

"Don't have to be, thank goodness," returned Waite, helping himself to another piece of beef. "Greek isn't on the list here."

There was abundant time for rest before the game. The players and subs, for the Navy team, however, were early at dressing quarters. Jetson hadn't been called as one of the subs., so he walked sulkily and alone through the grounds while most of the midshipmen strolled, about in groups.

Half an hour before the time for the game the spectators' seats held fair-sized crowds. At that time the Naval Academy Band began to play, just to keep the waiting ones more patient.

Ten minutes later the Hanniston players came on to the field at a slow trot. Instantly the Hanniston howlers in the audience began to whoop up the noise. The midshipmen joined in cheers, and then the band took up the music again.

At first sight of the visitors, some of the Navy people began to have their doubts about victory. The Hannistons surely were "bulky." In size and age, the visitors were as formidable as any of the college elevens.

Many of the midshipmen, too, recalled what they had heard Waite say at table. It seemed little wonder that the popular odds were against the middies.

But the band, having played its welcome to the Hannistons, who were now chasing a ball over the field in practice, almost immediately switched off into the strains of "See, the Conquering Hero Comes!"

All doubts were dispelled for the moment at least, as all the Navy people present let loose a tremendous cheer in which the midshipmen spectators led, for now Captain Hepson was leading his own men on to the field, the hope of the Navy that day.

"Hepson! Hepson!" went up rousingly from the brigade.

"Darrin! Darrin!" howled others.

"Dalzell!"

"Darrin! Darrin!"

"Hepson must enjoy hearing more noise for Darrin than for himself," reflected Jetson moodily.

But Hepson, big in body, heart and mind, was intent only on victory. It did not even occur to the captain of the Navy eleven that Darrin was getting more of a reception than himself. Hepson was simply and heartily glad to find himself supported by two such promising gridiron men as Darrin and Dalzell.

"Remember, Darry, how much we're backing on you to-day," muttered Hepson, after another round of yells for Dave had been given.

"I can't do everything, and perhaps not much," smiled Dave. "But I'll do my level best to do all that you call upon me for at my own little spot in the line."

A din of Hanniston yells was now smiting the air. Uncle Sam's midshipmen waited with patience and courtesy, but when their turn came they volleyed forth four times as much as the visiting howlers could supply.

"I hope Darry is in great form to-day," murmured the midshipman seated next to Jetson.

"He looks to be in as good shape as ever doesn't he?" asked Jetson sullenly.

"Oh, I forgot," exclaimed the other. "You don't like Darry any too well."

"I've nothing against him that would make me want to see him in bad form," grumbled Jetson. "I'm a Navy man and I don't want to see any but Navy victories."

The toss had just been made, the visitors winning the kick-off. At a sign from a Navy officer in the field the leader silenced his band and a hush fell over the gridiron and the seats of the onlookers.

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