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   Chapter 6 No.6

The High School Captain of the Team; or, Dick & Co. Leading the Athletic Vanguard By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 12970

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


One of the Fallen

For a few moments Drayne hung about outside, irresolute. Then his native shrewdness asserted itself.

"Not to go in, after having been seen here in the yard would be to confess whatever anyone wants to charge," muttered Phin. "Of course I'll go in. And I'll just stand there and look more and more astounded every time that anyone says anything. Brass, Phin--brass! Oh, I'd like to see anyone down me!"

So, with all the swagger he could put on, this young Benedict Arnold of the school stepped into the Board room. As he entered, the clerk of the Board hastened toward him.

"Step into this anteroom at the side, Mr. Drayne, until you're called," the clerk directed. "There will be some routine business to be transacted first. Then, I believe, the Board has a few questions it desires to ask you."

Left by himself, the young man began to be a good bit frightened. He was brave enough in matters requiring only physical courage. But in this instance the culprit knew that he had been guilty of a contemptibly mean act, and the knowledge of it made a moral coward of him.

"What are they doing? Trying to sentence, me to solitary confinement?" wondered the young man, when minute after minute went by without any call for him. In the Board room he could hear the droning of voices.

"And that Dick Prescott is out there, sitting at a reporter's table, ready to take in all that happens," muttered Phin savagely. "Won't he enjoy himself, though?"

At last it seemed to Phin as though a hush fell over those in the next room. But it was only that voices had been much lowered.

Then a door opened, the clerk looking in and calling:

"Mr. Drayne, will you come before the Board now?"

Phin passed into the larger apartment. Seated in one chair was Dr. Thornton; in another chair Mr. Morton. And Dick Prescott was there, but gathering up his writing materials as though about to go.

The chairman waited in silence until Prescott had passed out of the Board room. After the clerk had closed the door the chairman announced:

"The Board is now in executive session. Dr. Thornton, we will listen to the matter which we understand you wish to bring before us for consideration."

Composedly Dr. Thornton stepped to the edge of the table, standing there, resting his left hand on the table as he began to speak.

In simple words, without any visible emotion, the High School principal stated what he understood of the receipt of copies of the football signal code by the captains of rival football elevens.

Next Mr. Morton took the stand, so to speak, and went much more into detail. He told what the reader already knows, producing several of the copies returned by the honorable captains of other school teams.

Then Mr. Morton put in evidence, with these copies of the code, copies of business letters received from Drayne's father, and presumably written on the Drayne office machine.

"If you examine these exhibits, gentlemen, I think you will agree that the betrayed code and the business letters were written on one and the same machine. The use of the magnifying glass makes it even more plain."

Then Mr. Morton sat down.

"Now, young Mr. Drayne, what have you to say?" demanded the presiding officer.

"Why should I say anything, sir?" demand Drayne, with an impudent assumption of swaggering ease.

"Then you admit the truth of the charges, Mr. Drayne?"

"I do not."

"Then you must really have something to say."

"I have heard a charge made against me. I am waiting to have it proved."

"Do you admit," asked the presiding officer, "that these copies of the code were written on your father's office machine?"

"I do not, sir. But, if it be true, is that any proof that I made those copies of the signal code? Is it argued that I alone have access to the typewriter in my father's office. For that matter, if I have an enemy in the High School and I must have several--wouldn't it be possible for that enemy, or several of them, to slyly break into my father's office and use that particular typewriting machine?"

This was confidently delivered, and it made an undoubted impression on at least two or three members of the Board. But now Mr. Morton broke in, quietly:

"I thought some such attempt as this might be made. So I waited until I saw what the young man's line of defense might be. Here is an envelope in which one of the copies was received by the captain of a rival football team. You will note that the sender, while understanding something about the use of a type machine, was plainly a novice in directing an envelope on the typewriter. So he addressed this envelope in handwriting. Here is the envelope in question, and here is one of Mr. Drayne's school examination papers, also in his own handwriting. I will ask the members of the Board to examine both."

There was silence, while the copies passed from hand to hand,

Drayne losing color at this point.

"Be brassy!" he whispered to himself. "You'll pull through, Phin, old boy."

"I am sorry to say, Mr. Drayne, that the evidence appears to be against you," declared the chairman slowly.

"It may, sir," returned the boy, "but it isn't conclusive evidence."

"Have you anything more to say, Mr. Morton?" asked the chairman, looking at the submaster.

"Plenty, Mr. Chairman, if the Board will listen to me."

"Proceed, Mr. Morton."

The football coach thereupon launched into a swiftly spoken tirade against the "brand of coward and sneak" who would betray his school in such a fashion. Without naming Phin, Mr. Morton analyzed the motives and the character of such a sneak, and he did it mercilessly, although in the most parliamentary language. Nor did he look toward the boy, but Phin was squirming under the lash, his face alternately red or ghastly.

"For such a scoundrel," continued Mr. Morton, "there is no hope greater than the penitentiary! He is fit for nothing else. Such a traitor would betray his best friend, or his country. Such a sneak would be dead to all feelings of generosity. The smallest meannesses must envelop his soul. Why, sir, the sender of these copies of the signal code was so mean, so small minded, so sneaking and so utterly selfish"--how Phin squirmed in his seat!--"that, in sending the envelopes through the mail he was not even man enough to pay full postage. Four cents was the postage required for each envelope, but this small-souled sneak, this ungenerous leech actuall

y made the receivers pay half of the postage on 'due-postage' stamps."

"I didn't!" fairly screamed red-faced Phin, leaping up out of his chair. "I stuck a four-cent stamp on each envelope myself! I remem---"

Of a sudden he stopped in his impetuous burst of language. A great hush fell in the room. Phin felt himself reeling with a new fright.

"Then," demanded Mr. Morton, in a very low voice, his face white, "why did you deny having sent out these envelopes containing the copies of the code?"

There was a shuffling of feet. Two or three of the Board laughed harshly.

"Oh, well!" burst almost incoherently from the trapped boy. "When you employ such methods as these you make a fellow tell on himself!"

All his 'brass' was gone now. He looked, indeed, a most pitiable object as he stood there, his lower jaw drooped and his cheeks twitching.

"I think you have said about all, Mr. Drayne, that it is necessary for you to say," interposed the chairman. "Still, in the interest of fair play we will allow you to make any further statements that you may wish to make. Have you anything to offer?"

"No!" he uttered, at last, gruffly.

At a sign from the chairman the clerk stepped silently over, took Phin by one elbow, and led him to the door. Phin passed on out of the building, stumbling blindly. He got home, somehow, and into bed.

In the morning, however, even a sneak is braver.

"What can they do to me, anyway?" muttered Phin, as he dressed. "I didn't break any of the laws of the state! All anyone can do is to cut me. I'll show 'em all how little I care for their contempt."

So it was not wholly in awe that Phin Drayne entered the general assembly room the next morning, a few minutes before opening time. Several of the students greeted him pleasantly enough. Phin was quick to conclude that the news had not leaked anyway, beyond the members of the football squad.

Then came the opening of the session. The singing books lay on the desks before the students. Instead, however, of calling out the page on which the morning's music would be found, Dr. Thornton held his little gavel in his hand, after giving a preliminary rap or two on his desk.

"I have something to say to the students of the school this morning," began Dr. Thornton, in a low but steady voice. "It is something which, I am happy to state, I have never before been called upon to say.

"One of the most valuable qualities in any man or woman is loyalty. All of us know, from our studies in history and literature, many conspicuous and noble examples of loyalty. We have also, in our mind's eye, some examples of the opposite qualities, disloyalty and treachery. Outside of sacred history one of the most conspicuous examples of betrayal was that of Benedict Arnold."

Every boy and girl now had his eyes turned fixedly on the old principal. Outside of the football squad no student had any idea what was coming. Phin tried to look wholly unconscious.

Dr. Thornton spoke a little more on the meanness of treachery and betrayal. Then, looking straight over at the middle of the third aisle on the boys' side of the room, the principal commanded:

"Mr. Drayne, stand by your desk!"

Phin was up, hardly knowing how he accomplished the move. Every pair of eyes in the room was focused on him.

"Mr. Drayne," continued the principal, and now there was a steely glitter of contempt in the old man's eyes, "you were displeased because you did not attain to as high honors on the football eleven as you had hoped. In revenge you made copies of the code signals of the team, and mailed a copy to the captain of nearly every team against which Gridley High School is to play this year."

There came, from all parts of the room, a gasp of incredulous amazement.

"Your infamy, your treachery and betrayal, Mr. Drayne, were traced back to you," continued the principal. "You were forced to admit it, last night, before the Board of Education. That Board has passed sentence in your case. Mr. Drayne, you are found utterly unfit to associate with the decent manhood and womanhood to be found in the student body of this High School. By the decision of the Board you are now expelled from this school. You will take your books and belongings and leave instantly. You will never presume to enter through the doors of this school again. Go, sir!"

From Phin came an angry snarl of defiance. He tried to shout out, to tell the principal and his late fellow students how little, or less than little, he cared about their opinions.

But the words stuck in his throat. Ere he could try again, a hiss arose from one quarter of the room. The hiss grew and swelled. Phin realized, though he dared not look about him any longer, that the hissing came as much from the girls as from the boys.

Drayne did not attempt to bend over his desk. Instead, he marched swiftly down the half of the aisle, then past the platform toward the door.

"Mr. Drayne," called Dr. Thornton, "you have not taken your books, or paper or other desk materials."

"I leave them, sir," shouted Phin, above the tumult of hissing, "for the use of some of your many pauper students."

Then he went out, slamming the door after him. He darted down to the basement, then waited before the locker door until one of the monitors came down, unlocked the door, and allowed Phin to get his hat. But the monitor never looked at him, or spoke.

Once out of the building, Phin could keep back the choking sob and tears no longer. Stealing down a side street, where he would have to pass few people, Phin gave way to his pent-up shame. Yet in it all there was nothing of repentance. He was angry with himself--in a fiendish rage toward others.

Afterwards, he learned that the books and other contents of his desk were burned in the school yard at recess, to the singing of a dirge. But, even for the purpose of making a bonfire of his books the students would not touch the articles with their hands. They coaxed the janitor to find a pair of tongs, and with this implement Phin's books and papers were conveyed to the purifying blaze.

Behind the door in the privacy of his own room Phin Drayne shook his fist at the surrounding air.

"I have one mission in life, now, anyway!" raged the boy. "I've got some cruel scores to pay. You, Dick Prescott, shall come in for a large share of the payment! No matter how long I have to wait and plan, or what I have to risk, you shan't get away from me!"

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