MoboReader > Young Adult > Winning His W": A Story of Freshman Year at College"

   Chapter 26 ST. PATRICK'S DAY

Winning His W": A Story of Freshman Year at College" By Everett T. Tomlinson Characters: 13202

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The door in the rear of the barn was open and on the floor before it stood Foster and Mott facing each other. Whether or not the sophomore who had been left as a guard was still in the barn Will could not determine, but, without waiting to find out, he almost leaped to the floor below, and before Mott could recover from his surprise he was helpless in the hands of his enemies. It was but the work of a moment securely to bind his hands and feet, and the leading spirit of the sophomore class was soon a helpless captive.

Excited though the boys were, the entire adventure was completed in a very brief time, and Will and Foster were both laughing when they gazed at their helpless prisoner. Even Mott smiled as he said ruefully:

"You've scored, freshmen. What are you going to do with me?"

"Nothing," said Will quickly.

Mott drew down the corners of his mouth and then a sudden light appeared in his eyes that caused Will to look keenly at him for a moment. "Come on, Foster," he said simply; "let's put this fellow where he won't do any more harm, at least until after St. Patrick's Day."

"Where'll we put him?" inquired Foster.

Will turned and looked about him and perceived a small harness room on the ground floor near him, and upon his suggestion the helpless sophomore was placed within it for safe keeping.

"Now then, Foster," said Will when he had closed the door of the room, "we've just got to find the place where these canes are hidden. Mott has come here to take the place of the guard that was here last night and nobody knows how long it'll be before some one else comes. Come on, let's get about it."

At once the two freshmen began their search. Beginning near the entrance, they examined every bin and peered into every possible place of concealment. Even in the mangers before which the horses were tied they peered and searched, but when they had carefully examined the entire floor they had not been able to discover the place where the coveted canes had been concealed.

"What are we to do, Will?" demanded Foster at last.

"Let's ask Mott."

"He'll never let on."

"Try it, anyway."

The two boys returned to the harness room and Will at once addressed their prisoner.

"Mott," he said, "where are those canes?"

The sophomore laughed loudly as he replied, "You certainly are the two most innocent freshmen I have ever struck yet. Perhaps you'd like to have me help you carry them back to the college."

"We'll let you go if you'll tell us where they are."

"Thanks muchly," replied Mott dryly."Come on, Will," said Foster. "We can find them ourselves. No use in wasting time here with this fellow. We'll get them ourselves."

"You're certain they're here?" laughed Mott.

Neither responded to his question, but both left the room and resumed their search.

"You don't suppose they have really got those canes somewhere else, do you, Foster? They might be just trying to put us on the wrong track here, you know?" inquired Will.

"It's possible, but I don't believe it," said Foster positively. "If that was their game Mott wouldn't be here."

"Probably not," assented Will. "Let's begin again. We've no time to waste."

The freshmen now began to search in the loft of the barn. They seized the pitchforks that were in the mow, and, thrusting the tines into the hay, they continued their search, working with desperate determination and throwing the hay about them until the entire mow presented the appearance of having been almost completely overturned.

But not a trace of the missing canes could they discover. At last, satisfied that their efforts were vain, they ceased and for a moment stared blankly at each other.

"No use," said Will despondently. "They've made game of us this time, Foster, just as sure as you live."

"We won't give up yet, Will. Of course if the canes are here they were not put where we'd be likely to stumble over them. We've just got to think it out-"

Foster stopped abruptly as a voice was heard calling up from below. "I must bid you an affectionate and tearful farewell, freshmen. Keep on with your good work and remember that perseverance conquers everything. Even the best of friends must part-"

Foster and Will waited to hear no more, but both plunged down the ladder, but when they had gained the floor below it was to behold Mott speeding up the lane as if he was "sprinting" for life itself. For a moment the surprise and consternation of the two freshmen were so complete that both were speechless.

"Why didn't you take after him, Will?" said Foster, who was the first to break in upon the awkward silence. "What are you standing here for?"

"No use, Foster," replied Will, shaking his head. "He's got too good a start. I don't see how he ever got loose."

"Well, he is loose and that's all there is about it. What'll we do next?"

"Find those canes. They're here, I know they are."

"Just tell me where they are, will you?"

"They won't come to us, that's certain! We've got to look them up. And if we don't find them pretty soon too it'll be the worse for us."

Will turned as he spoke and once more opened the lid of a piano box that was standing on the floor near them. The box apparently was filled with oats and they had inspected it before, but as it had not presented any appearance of containing the object of their search they had passed it by and gone on to the loft above.

This time, however, Will thrust his arm deep down into the oats and in a moment he almost shouted. "Here's something, Foster! Help me clear away these oats. There's something down in there!"

Foster seized the scoop that was near the improvised oat bin and with feverish haste threw the oats up on one side and then said exultantly, "Here's something! Here they are!"

Leaning over the box, he drew forth a bundle of canes carefully tied together and partly hidden from sight beneath the oats.

"Are they all there?" demanded Will in a hoarse whisper. He hastily inspected the bundle and then exclaimed, "Here's only a part of them, Foster!"

"Where some are it's likely there are more," and Will at once resumed his search. His efforts were speedily rewarded by the discovery of another bundle similar to the one that had already been found, and, dropping his scoop, he hastily began to count the canes.

"Here they are!" he exclaimed joyfully. "Every last one of them is here!"

"Then the sophs must have been to both places where we had them."

"Yes, but it's all the better for us. We'll now be-"

Foster stopped abruptly as the farmer that own

ed the buildings appeared in the doorway and for a moment stared blankly at them.

"Good morning," said Will cheerfully. "We're here after these canes."

"So I see," replied the farmer. "The freshmans didn't find ye out, then?"

"It's all right," responded Will glibly. "How much are we to pay you?"

"They paid me last night. I guess 'twas 'beout right. I don't want nothin' more."

"We've tumbled your hay over more than we thought," said Will, as he thrust a bill into the man's hand.

"I don't know 'beout it," drawled the farmer, nevertheless thrusting the money into his pocket. "Putty good pay, but I don't know but I might's well take it."

"Of course you're to take it!" said Will eagerly. "All we ask of you now is not to tell anybody-anybody," he added with special emphasis, "that we've taken the canes away. Don't tell any one of it or the whole game will be spoiled."

"I'll be as mum as a hitchin' post."

Without waiting for any further words the two boys seized the bundles and at once departed from the barn. When they came out into the lane they looked carefully about them in every direction, but no one could be seen and they soon came out into the open road.

"What are we going to do with them now?" inquired Foster, as they halted for a moment."We can't take them back to our rooms," said Will.

"No! No! That would never do."

"I'll tell you," said Will quickly. "Let's take them down to that old bridge yonder," pointing as he spoke toward a rude bridge that spanned the stream not far away.

"All right. Come along, then," responded Foster.

Instantly the two boys began to run and in a brief time arrived at the rude structure, and after a hasty inspection they placed the two bundles on the piers beneath the bridge and then covered them with the driftwood that had been cast up on the bank of the stream when its waters had been swelled by the passing storms.

When their work was at last completed they departed for Winthrop and arrived just as the final strokes of the bell were given that assembled the students in the chapel. They hastily passed in with the throng of students and were in their seats in time to receive credit for attendance.

As they passed out from the chapel when the service was ended they came face to face with Mott and a group of sophomores, who evidently were waiting for their appearance; but as neither Foster nor Will betrayed any emotion by the expression upon their faces it was impossible for the sophomores to perceive whether or not the canes had been discovered.

There was no question about their opinions, however, when later in the day it was apparent that the sophomore class was possessed of a feeling of intense excitement. Parties were sent forth in various directions, and there was the keenest interest manifest in the entire college. Will and Foster, however, were too wise to relate their experiences to any except to the three or four leaders of their class; and when night fell, by a circuitous route, and then only after a half-dozen parties had been sent out in other directions to mislead any of their rivals who might be watching their movements, they proceeded to the bridge, secured the canes, and bringing them safely back to the college under the protecting shelter of the darkness, distributed them among the members of the class.

Great was the elation of the freshmen when on the following morning they formed in a body near the gymnasium just before the hour of morning prayers in the chapel and then marched to the service every one carrying in his hands one of the coveted sticks.

The discomfited sophomores endured in silence the gibes of the students, and the exultant freshmen received the applause that greeted their success with an air that it is to be feared only served to increase the chagrin of their rivals. And Will Phelps and Foster were at once, and by a common though unspoken assent, awarded a place among the leaders of their class for their success.

Of the parade that took place that day Will Phelps did not tire of talking for many a week. The assembled crowd of students, townspeople, and visitors, the long line of freshmen in the parade and their grotesque appearance, the stirring music of a brass band at the head of the line, the march to the lower campus where the huge bonfire was kindled, the weird songs and dancing as in dual lines the two lower classes with joined hands leaped and danced about the blazing fire, and then the final consignment to the flames of the huge wooden hatchet that had been carried in the parade, were all incidents that duly impressed him. And when at last the fires burned low and the final song was sung, and it was declared that the hatchet was buried forever and all feelings of animosity between the lower classmen were at an end, the boys returned to their rooms feeling that a well-earned victory had been won.

The escapades were doubtless silly, and in after years brought a smile to the faces of the participants when they were then recalled, but nevertheless they had formed a part of the experiences of college life and had brought with them the development of certain qualities of leadership which in other ways and in later days were to play no small part in the lives of Will Phelps and his room-mate.

The coming of springtime in Winthrop was always an occasion of general rejoicing. The hills were once more covered with their garments of green and the valleys were beautiful in their verdure. Among the students at Winthrop there was usually a relaxing of effort then, but Will Phelps, though the effort cost him much, still held himself resolutely to his tasks. He had been learning not merely what to study but also how to study, and in his spring vacation his father had explained to him that this was his supreme purpose and desire. If a man did not learn how to work while he was a student in college it was seldom the case that he learned it afterward. And Will had responded. His Greek was still distasteful to him, but he was doing somewhat better and was more content.

The crowning ambition in Will's heart as we know was to secure a place on the college track team. And he had been working quietly yet persistently under the guidance of Wagner for the desired end. At last, early in May, came the trial meets of the college when the selections for the team were to be made, and when Will donned his running suit and went down to the track to all appearances he was calmer than his room-mate. But in his heart there was a feeling such as he had never known before.

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