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   Chapter 20 OUT FOR THAT TOBOGGAN!

The High School Freshmen; or, Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 8532

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Ben Badger came to the shore edge of the ice, megaphone in hand announcing in stentorian tones:

"Our friends are safe--even jolly. The sports will now go on!"

First on the card was a free-for-all dash of a half mile, standing start. The trophy was a regulation target revolver.

Badger, of the first class, and Purcell, of the sophomore, held the lead and all but tied each other at the outset. Third in order came Stearns, the agile little right end of the eleven. When half the distance had been traveled it was noticed that Stearns was creeping up on the leaders.

"Look out, Ben, or the little fellow will get you!" roared friends.

Stearns continued to gain, slowly. Purcell dropped back to third place. None of the other eight in the race seemed likely to do anything effective.

"A little more steam, Ben!"

"Stearns, you can get it!"

In the last eighth of the distance Stearns made good. Summoning all his football wind and speed the little right end closed and shot ahead. Not once in the remainder of the course did Ben Badger quite catch up with his smaller opponent. Stearns won by some fifteen yards.

The racers came slowly back, breathing harder than usual. As soon as jovial Ben felt equal to the task of further announcing, he picked up the megaphone, shouting:

"As I didn't win, all the further events are postponed!"

There was stupefied silence for a few moments. Grown people and the students looked from one to another. Then a guffaw started that swelled to a chorus of laughter.

"The next event on the card," called Ben, satisfied with the effect of his joke, "is the free-for-all fancy skating event. The contestants will come before the judges one at a time. Each entrant is limited to two minutes, actual time."

There should have been some girls entered in this event, but there were none. Six H.S. boys from the different classes came forward.

"Fred Ripley loses his chance," muttered some one.

"He had his chance. A fellow who prefers to skate into the freeze is counted out," replied Thomp.

Just as the contestants were moving out Greg Holmes came hurrying down to the ice.

"Am I too late?" he called.

"Not if you think you've got anything good," replied Badger.

Greg promptly proceeded to put on his skates, covertly watching the performance of the first fellow to show off. It was good work that Greg watched, but he thought he could beat it.

"You'll have to go last on the list," nodded Ben, as Greg came skating up.

Greg merely nodded, though inwardly he grinned. "That just suits me," he told himself. "The fellow who skates last will be freshest in the minds of the judges."

When it came Greg's turn he avoided most of the fancy figures that the other fellows had shown off amid much applause. Still, Greg showed a bewildering assortment of "eights," "double-eights" and some magnificent work along the "turn promenade" order that Ripley had been doing before the accident.

Then Greg came in, promenading backward on his skates.

"I'm going to fall," he called to the judges, "but it will be intentional."

"Fall it is, then," nodded Sam Edgeworth, one of the judges.

Greg was moving jauntily along, still doing the backward promenade.

Suddenly one of his skates appeared to catch against the other.

Down went Greg, backwards. Despite his announcement the moment

before, a sympathetic murmur went up from many of the onlookers.

But Greg, sitting down suddenly as he did, pivoted around like a streak. Throwing his hands back of his head, he sprang to his feet. At the first he was doing the forward promenade. The whole manoeuvre, including the fall, had occupied barely four seconds. Now, wheeling into the back promenade Greg glided before the judges.

"Time," called the holder of the watch.

"I'm willing," nodded Greg. "And I'm willing any contestant who wants should try my stunt before the verdict is given."

The conference between the judges did not last long and Greg got the decision.

"The freshman mile will come along later," announced Ben, through the megaphone. "The committee want to put in a freak race first."

The "freak" was a quarter mile, nearly go-as-you-please. In this race each contestant had on his left skate, b

ut no skate on the right foot. The contestant who reached the finish line first won--"even if he slides on his back," Ben announced, sagely.

Tom Reade hurried onto the ice as one of the entrants in this race. He had practiced it well, and won it easily, securing a silver medal. Greg's prize had been a gold medal, but over this fact Tom allowed himself to feel no envy or disappointment.

Several other events came along in quick succession. Everyone seemed to forget that the freshman mile had not yet been skated.

It was called last on the list. Just as the skaters were moving forward some one detected a figure hurrying down the slope over the snow.

"Here comes Dick Prescott!"

"Is he going into the race after all?"

A lively burst of cheers greeted the freshman as he reached the edge of the ice.

Dick looked as cheery and as rosy as ever. No onlooker could see that Prescott's late adventure had injured him in the least.

"Going to race, Dick?" called some one.

"Surest thing," laughed the freshman, "if I can find my skates.

If not, I'm going to try to borrow a pair of the right size."

"Here are your skates," called Laura Bentley, gliding forward over the ice. "I picked them up for you, and I've been holding 'em ever since.

"That's what I call mighty good of you," glowed Dick. "Thank you a thousand times."

Dick sat down on a wooden box. He could have had the services of half a dozen seniors to fasten on his skates, but he preferred to do it for himself.

Clamps adjusted, and skates tested, Dick struck off leisurely, going up before the starter and judges. These were grouped near the starting line.

"Standing start," announced Ben. "Each man exactly to the line. Pistol signal. False starts barred, and the usual penalties for fouling. Get on line, all!"

Then the starter moved forward, pistol in hand.

"On your marks!"

"Get set!"

Bang!

Dick, at the left end of the line, crouched forward somewhat. Nearly the whole of his right runner rested on the ice. His left foot was well forward, the toe of the skate dug well into the ice. His right arm pointed ahead, his left behind.

Crack! At the sound of the shot Dick let his right foot spring into the air. As it came down, ahead, he gave a vigorous thrust with his left. The style of start was his own, but it worked to a charm. A hearty cheer went up when the spectators saw that Dick was leading by five yards.

At the first turn, however, Prescott's adherents--and they were

many this afternoon--felt a thrill of disappointment. Walter

Hewlett, whose skating had been strong and steady so far, passed

Dick at the turn.

"Hardly fair, after all," murmured several. "Of course, after what he's been through, no matter how much nerve Prescott may have, he can't be anything like up to his usual form."

Had Dick heard them he would have smiled. He knew that the skating was warming him up and taking away whatever of the chill had been left.

As they neared the second turn the distance between Dick and Hewlett was about fifteen yards. The other freshmen were far enough behind both not to appear to count.

Now Prescott turned on steam. He reached the second turn only eight yards behind Hewlett, and that latter freshman made the poorer turn.

Down the home stretch now! Dick began to work deep breathing for all he was worth. Instead of taking slow, deep breaths, he breathed rapidly, pumping his lungs full of air.

That rapid deep breathing started his heart to working faster, sent the blood bounding through his arteries.

It would have been exhausting if carried out too long. But now, on what was left of the home stretch, it acted almost like pumping oxygen into his lungs.

Swiftly the distance melted.

"Hurrah!" rang the yell. "There goes Prescott ahead!"

Not only ahead, but gaining in the lead. Five yards to the good, then ten, twelve, fifteen. Dick Prescott shot over the finish line a good eighteen yards ahead. Then the victor came to a stop, panting but happy.

Five minutes later, when all the congratulations were over, he skated up beside Laura Bentley.

"You saved my skates for me, Laura, and brought me luck all through.

I want you to have the first ride on that toboggan."

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