The Connaught Cup —and Rosie
Football, domestic disruptions, and a girl who craved a dragon-slayer
"JIMMY BRETT! Hello-ello! Here for th’ cup finals? So're we Say-meet th’ wife!”
"Do, ma'am!" Rising with alacrity from his rotunda seat, the stout, prosperous-looking Brett bowed sheepishly. As the buxom lady, after a word ot two, moved away towards the elevator, he boisterously embraced thet tall figure of his old friend, dragging him down beside himself on the lounge.
? wife,” he mimicked. “Never had no use eh, heh, heh! Say! you old rooster—how’d : ever get such a blue-ribbon winner to fall
grin appeared on Sterling’s gaunt face, t! Took some doin’, I admit—but I—here, r an’ I’ll tell you how-come I resigned bein’ a
luffi "she’s a long story” (puff) “Got an? Say—where ya at now, Jimmy—Calgary? ur team's the Hillbonnets, ain't it? Why’nt final” (puff). llbonnets. Should ’a been, Bob—but we Cumberisland, B.C., team on a fluke—but iya do it—hey?”
AY. don't crowd me! (puff) Well, as I was sayin’, springtime, three year ago, I was meanderin’ about ta, lookin' for some graft to hook onto—ball team ’—when I blows into a little burg called BarrHeh. heh! Heard of 'at place, hey? Yeh—I jut 'er on th’ map! Lookit this medal they gimme.
w, don't stop me, Jimmy! Teh—I coulda had th’ ! town if I wanted it—why, they . . .
11, I’m cornin’ to that—gimme time, man! As I .ayin', they didn't seem to be no graft there; had a sporty burg, all right, but things was dead then, i' hotel I'm stayin’ at, they was a peach waitin’ ble. First time I see her, I know I’m a fixture in
Barrville—for some time, anyway. I knew then why I’d never had no use for skirts. I said to meself:
“Bob, m’boy—there’s your meat!”
Wait a minnit—who’s tellin’ it, you or me? As I says, I gets to know this girl—seems her name’s Rosie. More I see of her, more I knows I’m hers.
Well, I figgered it all out—an’ one mornin’ after I gets through rasslin’ with the grape-fruit . . . now, don’t butt in, Jimmy—yes, I was on a diet . . . well, as I says, I up an’ popped.
She gimme th’ haughty ha, ha!
It knocked me cold, Jimmy!
At dinner time, while I’m takin’ it out on th’ beefsteak . . . yeh, I went right off th’ diet, hopin’ I’d last quick! . . . this Rosie waits till th’ place is nigh empty, then comes over to my table.
“Listen,” she says, “I don’t know much about you, Mister Sterling, ’ceptin’ that you’re about as handsome as my last year’s hat,” she says, “but you ain’t fresh, like lots of these Willies—so, if you’re really in earnest about this wantin’ to wed me—you’ve got to prove it!”
“Rosie!” I growled, “jist gimme one little chance!”
It seems she’s very romantic—reads these old-time dime novels about fellers in iron non-union soots goin’ out before breakfast an’ spearin’ a dragon or two, to win a fair lady. Anyhow she gets th’ notion of sickin’ me onto suthin’. They ain’t nary a dragon around them parts—nothin’ so easy! So, what does she do but tell me I can think about interviewin’ a preacher only an’ after I’ve brung th’ football championship of Canada to Barrville—in other words, cop th’ Connaught Cup. ’At’s all!
“That’s a big job you’ve asked me to tackle, Rosie!” I says.
“It’s a big job you’re askin’ me to tackle!” she shoots back, givin’ me a mean look.
She shifts her look to my plate, then chirps, “What’s your’s for dessert, Mister Sterling—apple or raisin?”
“Neither, Rosie!” I grunted, “I’m back on th’ diet! What size in weddin’ rings do you prefer—I’m gonna get me one right away, an’ save time!”
Got a match, Jimmy? Thanks! Well, as I was sayin’, they ain’t even a scrub team in that burg. Used to be a football centre— that’s mebbc how th’ girl gets th’ idee, she knowin’ I m,asportspromoter. They’s only about a thousand pop’lation in Barrville—an’ win th’ Connaught Cup! You’ admit, Jimmy, she’s some little old dragon to knock over, hey?
But I’m serious, thinkin’ of Rosie—an’ I swears I’ll have me a try at it—if I has to buy me a dozen football teams an’ brung ’em in one at a time!
Got another match, Jimmy? Well, as I was
sayin’, I ambles around, lookin’ up th’ old football sports. I finds they’s quite a few old-timers who remembers when Barrville’s a big noise in Alberta football. But they’re all deader’n a nit. I aimed to wake ’em up! (puff, puff) Dang this stogie! Here, wait,” I get th’ old bull-dog goin’—never did care much for seegars....
Well, I gets th’ men fairly enthusiastic, an’ we organizes. Seems we got everythin’ but a team! But I hears they is one or two old country fellers farmin’ in th’ district—an’, whiles I don’t know much about football, them days—I did know that old country players was roosters at th’ game. So I goes out an’ has a talk with ’em. Sure! They’re willin’ to try a come-back.
First practise turnout, I soon see we ain’t got much ’ceptin’ old crocks an’ enthusiasm—but they was sure warmin’ up! Them old country fellers was th’ goods; one was an old Notts County man, another had been on Everton’s reserve team. Th’ town harness maker, feller named Jarvis, who claimed he’d played goal for Reading, behind Herbert Smith, goes in goal—an’ I soon see he’s been there before!
After th’ work-out I asks this feller what he thinks of our chances for a team.
“Mister,” he says, “we can get a good team! They’s some good men North of th’ River,” he says, “who’ll play with us—they’re inside th’ radius allowed us.” Then he drops his voice, “Say,” he whispers, “they’s a chap right in town here who ain’t got an equal anywhere in Canada as a centre-forward . . . but,” he broke off sadly, “you can’t get him out . . . ”
“Hey!” I hollered, “why not? Jist gimme his name— I’ll get him!”
“No you won’t,” says this Jarvis. “If he'd turn out, we could step into the Alberta League to-morrow . . . But ...”
I grabbed my clothes, an’ started crankin’ th’ car. “Gimme his name an’ ad-dress!” I growled, “an’ jump in!” Then I nearly steered Lizzie into a ditch . . . this feller tells me that Ned Collins, star centre of th’ England Amateur International team of a few years before, is slingin’ type in the office of th’ Barrville Ruffle!” Laugh that one off, Jimmy!
WELL, I calls on this Collins. Got a match? Now, I know a ball player, or hockey player, too, soon’s I set eyes on one—but football is out of my line, then. Still, I see this feller ought to be good; young, husky as a heavyweight boxer, good-lookin’, feller, too. But he tells me it’s impossible for him to play.
I spent a lot of time with him that next week; couldn’t budge him. Seems he’s been in trouble of some sort— wouldn’t say what—jist didn’t have any heart for sport.
Worst of it was we had a fair team by this time—
bttt th’ men we tried out at centre was weak. We took on two neighborin’ town teams in work-outs; we were al lover’ em in th’ field playan’ in defence work—but hadn’t a goal-scorer; the forward line lacked punch.
I sweated blood thinkin’ what I could do with this Barrville outfit—if Collins would only turn out. If I could even get him to tell me what’s eatin’ him, mebbe I might fix things. But they wasn’t a chance!
Well, I gets me a couple more forwards from North the River, and enters th’ League.
We manages to trim Marburn, the town’s old rival an’ th’ place goes football crazy! We win some more local games—then gets word that we’re drawn agen’ Edmerton Eskimos, in th’ province semi-final. I gets desperate. Here’s me, startin’ with nothin’, gets this far—an’ if I can only cop this game, an’ then th’ final—I’m sure of a place in th’ Connaught play-downs! An’ no centre-forward.
Got a match, Jimmy? Yeh! As I was sayin’, I gets th’ mayor an’ town council, th’ Board of Trade, th’ Rotary Club—even th’ Women’s Institute organization —to call on this Collins, beggin’ him to turn out an’ play, for th’ honor of Barrville. Nothin’ doin’!
In desperation I invites this feller to take tea with me, an’ while we’re eatin’, I spills th’ works. I tells him about me an’ Rosie—an’ I see a flicker in his eyes. Warmin’ up, I tells him all it means to me to get me a wife an’ home cookin’—an’ it goes over big.
Before we leave th’ table, he’s promised me he’ll play— jist for me an’ Rosie!
Got a match, Jimmy, old scout? Thanks! Say! What that lad Collins does do to that Barrville team! We win th’ Eskimo game, 5-0. When I turns in that evenin’, after duly celebratin’ th’ victory by takin’ Rosie to th’ movies, I’m figurin’ I got that old dragon half licked!
Th’ whole town goes up with us to Edmonton to root for Barrville in th’ final with Calgary Swifts . . . them Swifts beat your Hillbonnets that year! hey Jimmy? Got a match?
Well, we cops that final game, 2-0. As we line up to go into th’ play-downs, I know we got a real team! I’m snoopin’ around town by this time, tryin’ to get a line on a nice little house that’ll hold two comfort’bly.
Nantoria, th’ British Columbia champs., give us a big scare. We^ met th’ miners at Edmonton, too—an’ I'll admit we were lucky to just scrape through by one goal in th’ two games. We’re in th’ Final!
On th’ train, in rout for Winnipeg, I gets this Collins lad to open up some. He’s so quiet an’ tight-lipped,
never mixes with th’ other fellers, so I chums up with him more’n usual—an’ what d’ye think he tells me? This trouble he’s in is all over a girl. Yes, siree! Seems he married a girl in th’ East—an’ soon after they settled down, they had a bit of a quarrel—seems she an’ him’s both as stubborn as seven mules. He thought a heap of her, an’ soon’s he gets over his grouch, starts out lookin’ for her. He searches all over—hires him detective agencies—but couldn’t get no trace of her. Finally he comes West, an’ settles in this Barrville place, tryin’ to forget. Poor lad, I’m downright sorry for him— seems such a good boy. Swears to me that th’ fault was all his, an’ he’d give anythin’ to find out where th’ girl was.
Got another match, Jimmy? Thanks! No don’t stop me—th’ goin’ gets pretty tough from here!
We win th’ first game agen’ th’ Montroyal United-— beat ’em 3-1. They’re a good team—but they couldn’t do nothin’ with my lads. My team works jist like a clock ticks. As for Collins, my ace—say! th’ boys on th’ papers went wild tellin’ of his play! Called him th’ best centre th’ city ever see! Th’ odds was all on us to win th’ old cup.
Right after th’ game I sends a telegram to Rosie—an’ I never even counted th’ words!
Got a match? Well, as I was sayin’, at supper time Collins doesn’t show up. Didn’t come in later, either, an’ I’m thinkin’ it’s funny of Ned. Still, he’s such a clean, good-livin’ boy, I ain’t worryin’. When ten o’clock comes though an’ still he ain’t in—I get the wind up. Rules is ten p.m. sharp, an’ Ned never broke no rules before.
I’m walkin’ around th’ lobby here, fumin’ an’ sweatin’, when in comes Collins, white-faced an’ serious-lookin’. He walks up quick, nods to us, drawn-faced like—then, without waitin’ for th’ elevator, hops up th’ steps. His door’s locked when I reach it. I never slep’ a wink that night!
Next mornin’, right after breakfast, he’s off again. Never showed up all mornin’. We’re all set to leave for th’ grounds, an’ I’m frantic—’phonin’ up different places, pool-rooms, newspaper offices an’ so on, where I figgers he might be at. Jist as I’m on th’ point of ’phonin’ th’ city detective buroo, Ned drifts in, more worried lookin’ than ever. Climbs into his togs without a word an’ hunches up in a corner of th’ bus by himself, facin’ out, as we drives to th’ park.
Gimme a match! That second game was a rout! Collins played all through like a man in a daze; he worked hard, mindya—but got no place! We lose, 2-0—the, seeries all tied up—an’ a third game necessary.
Th’ paper boys sure handed it to th’ Montroyals— ’specially their defence; figured they had solved my star centre’s game, an’held him. I knew different. Suthin’ else had caused his flop—an’ knowin’ they’s a coon in th’ sticks some place, I’m near crazy. No use speakin’ to Ned! That lad was so proud an’ sensitive, he’d pack his duds an’ leave on th’ first train!
Think of it, Jimmy Jist one little soccer game between me an’ Rosie! She’s back in Barrville, six hundred miles away—an’ unless I can find out what’s eatin’ my star centre, she might’s well be twenty times ’at fur!
WELL, I gets th’ old bean to work—an’ after sweatin’ blood I hits on a scheme, which called for a interview with a bell-hop; I’d tipped th’ lad, on an’ off, since landin’ here, an’ he was rootin’ strong for Barrville to win. I figgered he was a jewel. So he was! He sleuthed Collins like a old-timer—comes back an’ reports that he’d foileyed Ned to a suite in a block on Broadway, where a skirt had come to th’ door an’ let him in. “Swell looker, too, mister!” grinned th’ kid.
Gimme a ma—say! I was furious! Thinks I, here’s this bimbo trails along with me until I begin to think I got th’ world by th’ tail with a down-hill pull—then leaves me flat! I feel like steamin’ round to this place an’ confrontin’ Ned an’ th’ lady. No use! He’s too dern proud for that—only end in a row. Frontal action’s no good here—must use th’ old bean.
I surely did! Half hour’s steady figgerin’ gives me a sweet plan.
Then I fretted an’ fumed—waitin’ for Collins to come back to th’ hotel. He gets back jist before noon, tosses a doleful nod in my direction, an’ heads for his room. Grabbin’ my hat, I hollers for a taxi.
Th’ girl who answered my ring on th’ door at th’ Broadway block was a pippin’, all right. Not what I thought she’d be, at all. I could hardly blame Ned ceptin’ that he might have postponed his courtin’ until we’ve copped th’ seeries an’ win th’ cup. Her great blue eyes is sad-lookin’, but th’ rosy cheeks an’ yeller hair of her makes a real picter! Trim as a schooner, too.
“Can I have a few words with you . . . I’m Bob Sterling, manager of th-’ Barrville Football Team . . . it’s about Ned Col ...”
“Come right in, Mr. Sterling,” she cuts me off, invitin’.
I warms to this girl, right away. In no time I’m spillin’ my troubles. She’s real int’rested. Once or twice she interrupts with a low “pardon me,” an’ goes into another room; I hears a muffled cough, then, which puzzles me a lot.
Got a match, Jimmy? Well, say—when I tells her about Rosie, an’ where she figgers in what I’m fightin’ for, th’ girl grabs my hand, them fine eyes of her’s shinin’.
“I’m right with you, Mister Sterling,” she says, “Barrville must win—for your sake, an’ Rosie’s!” She blushes, then says, “I don’t know what you’ve been thinkin’ . . . about Ned an’ me . . . but I’ll tell you my story—then you must tell me how I can help . . She stopped, scared-lookin’, as a moan come from th’ next room; excusin’ herself, she gets up, an’ as she turns to th’ door, a trim nurse comes from th’ room, an’ speaks to her, low.
Continued on page 53
Continued from page 15
They left me, an’ I could hear one of ’em phonin’ for a doctor. I was worried, didn’t know whether to stay, or beat it. I remembered Rosie—an’ stayed. When she comes back, she says, “I must hurry and tell you—doctor will be here soon, and Ned......”
That put th’ wind up me! If my star centre finds me here—it’s curtains, sure!
Gimme a match! Well, she spins her story. It lef’ me gapin’, goggle-eyed! I felt like heatin’ it back to th’ hotel to grab Collins’ hand an’ beg his pardon. Instead, I jist sit there, gapin’.
Her voice brings me back to earth. “What can I do to help? I want to, you know—for you, and Rosie ”
“Ma’am”, I says, “I feel like a dumb brute, intrudin’ my little affairs in your big trouble—an’ Ned’s. Still, mebbe we can help each other.......”
I thought hard, then—an’ like a flash a plan come. I tells her about it; she warmed to th’ idee, promised to follow it to th’ letter.
As I left, her little hand holds mine, very friendly like. “Oh, I do hope everything turns out right for you, Mr. Sterling. Good-bye, and good luck! Did you take down my number—(Main 2602)”?
I didn’t feel much like grinnin’ as I rode back to th’ hotel—still I couldn’t keep back a grin as I sees, in a passin’ street car, th’ hunched-up figger of Ned Collins. Luck was with me so fur. If he found out anythin’ about my bein’ at th’ Broadway place, my plan was all off!
T PUT in a bad afternoon at th’ hotel.
Th’ paper boys flocked around me, lookin’ for anythin’ new.
Collins come in at ten that evenin’— lookin’ more worried an’ whiter-faced than before. Th’ lad’s almost a wreck. I longed to speak a comfortin’ word or two—but knew it would queer my plan if I once got talkin’, th’ way I felt. I longed to ’phone th’ girl for news—but it wouldn’t do to have th’ ’phone ringin’ there that time o’ night.
I ’phoned early in th’ mornin’, while Ned’s in th’ dinin’ room. Th’ word I get, lef’ me near stunned. Th’ voice cornin’ over th’ wire was thick an’ heavy with sobs.
Ridin’ to th’ grounds with th’ Barrville team for th’ final game in th’ afternoon, I did my derndest to pep up th’ boys. Inside me, th’ old heart was like a lump o’ lead, but I chattered away. Th’ ride was more like a funeral—all th’ boys seemed to know suthin’s wrong.
Gimme a match, Jim! Say—that
final game comes back to me in nightmares, even yet! Mebbe you read all about it in th’ papers? Th’ Easterners swamped us right from th’ start—run my lads ragged! At half time we’re trailin’ behind, 3-0. Each time th’ leather hit th’ Barrville net behind old Jarvis, it was like a bullet pingin’ me, dead centre!
Rosie seemed a million miles away. When th’ outside-left of th’ United shoots th’ third goal with a sweet daisycutter—I pulls out Rosie’s picter, an’ kissed her good-bye.
Got a match? In th’ dressin’-room at half-time I was frantic. Th’ lads had been playin’ good ball—doin’ their derndest. They all looked at me sorrowfully— every one of ’em knew what this meant to me! They acted like a gang of bad boys caught with th’ goods. All ’ceptin’ Collins. Ned sat by himself in a corner, tight-lipped, eyes glued to th’ floor, face white as death.
Once he raised his eyes to mine—an’ pain an’ sufferin’ shut out th’ light in ’em! He beckoned with a nod of his head. “Sorry, Bob!” he muttered. I grips his hand hard, th’ old heart nigh burstin’.
“Ned,” I growled, “if it’s me you’re thinkin’ of—quit! You’ve been doin’
all any man could do out there, an’ more! Anyhow—we ain’t licked yet!” ¡
A flicker come in his eyes—then they blurs agen’.
“No ... I can’t do a thing right . . . we ought to beat these fellers, they’re no better than us . . but ...” He closed up then, like a clam.
Right after th’ second half started, we scores a lucky goal. It peps th’ lads up, an’ they go to work like nailers. Ned Collins was all over th’ place, tryin’ harder’n ever. But it ain’t any use. Jist a flash in th’ pan. Th’ United recover—an’ there’s nothin’ to th’ game ceptin’ a terrific siege on our goal.
I couldn’t stand th’ sight. Gimme a match? I lef’ my seat, an’ heads for th’ club-house.
Back there, with th’ cheers ringin’ in my ears, I sits down an’ trys to steel myself to th’ blow this means. No use thinkin’ any more about Rosie! I’m a sport—havin’ fell down on my end of it, I figgered to pull out of Barrville for keeps. They’d be no weddin’ bells in mine!
An’ I’d come so close—got right to th’ ! finals—wins th’ first game easy . . . Jimmy, she’s a hard one to take! A big lump commences to bother my swallerin’ —then suddenly, like a electric shock, thought of that plan I’d made popped into th’ old bean! I’d forgotten all about it—them three goals th’ Montroyals had ; shot musta softened th’ old brain! But I hadn’t figgered on our bein’ three goals down . . .
“Main 2602!” I growls into th’’phone. Th’ old heart give a jump at th’ joyful sound of th’ answerin’ voice. I forgot all about what she had promised at sound of it . . . sounded so real. “Oh the crisis is passed . . , doing just splendidly . . . doctor has just gone . . . says everything will be all right now. How’s the game going?”
I never stopped to reply, but dropped th’ ’phone an’ beat it back to th’ field.
My blue-shirted lads were still backin’ up, hemmed into their own territory by th’ eager red-striped Easterners. Th’ whistle blew jist as I reached th’ side-line, stoppin’ th’ game for some misplay. Collins was near th’ line—I called to him, an’ he jogged over.
“Ned lad—listen!” All excited, I gave him, th’ news I’d jist heard. He jumped back, his eyes poppin’.
“You . . . how . how’d you
know anythin’ . . . who told . . . ” | A wicked glare was in his eyes, an’ his fists clenched.
WhenI tells him I got it over th' ’phone, he reels back, almost failin’. As I grabs him, he’s mutterin’, “Thank God! 0, thank God!”
Th’ whistle sounds for th’ re-start— an’ Ned nigh to crush my hand with a hard grip, then scurries back to his place.
OT a match, Jimmy, old boy?
Thanks! Well, as I was sayin’, mebbe you read all about it in the papers? Th’ boys went wild writin’ up that game! Within five minutes of my givin’ him that message, Collins scores two clinkin’ goals. Th’ Montroyals begin to rough things when they sees th’ game slippin’ — an’ that didn’t help ’em any. They couldn’t hold Ned Collins.
Twice my ace crashes th' leather agen’ th’ cross-bar, then he hits th' upright with another beauty. All three shots looked like sure goals. With th’ scores tied at 3-all, an’ only five minutes to go, Ned starts a dribble down centre that brings th’ crowd roarin’ to their feet in th’ stands, while the hundreds around th’ ropes looked like bustin' through in their excitement. Boy—
she’s some sight. This Collins lad slips one red-stripe after another, then heads straight for th’ Montroyal goal with th’ ball at his toe under perfect control. He’s jist goin’ through th’ backs, an’ is all set to shoot—when th’ lef’ back brings him down. Th’ shrill blast of th’ refs whistle cut through th’ roars of th’ crowd like a knife!
It’s a penalty! Ned drives it like a bullet into th’ net. We’re one up!
Jimmy, dear—got another match? Yeh! Eh?—sure, don’t crowd me—
I’m coinin’ to that! As I was sayin’, th’ papers told all about it. That penalty goal give Barrville th’ Connaught Cup!
Yeh—th’ boys on th’ papers did good. They told a lot about th’ way Collins come to life in that last twenty minutes— but what they didn’t tell was plenty.
Only three of us knew th’ inside dope on that—an’ it wasn’t for publication!
F’rinstance—not a soul outside me an Ned an’ th’ girl knew that she was his wife, who’d left him three years or so before because of some little tiff they’d had which stubborn pride on both sides built up into a wall; only us three knew that soon after that first game he had found out, jist by accident, that she was livin’ in Winnipeg; he called at her place—to learn that he was th’ daddy of a golden-haired little feller—who was then seriously ill with pneumonia. Only us three knew that nothin’ only Ned’s loyalty to me an’ Rosie made him turn out at all in those two remainin’ games— an’ that, durin’ that final game, his wife, true to her promise to me, had ’phoned that th’ boy was out of danger— in hopes that it would spur Ned on. It surely did—but I’ll never forget his face when he learns th’truth!
Got a match, Jimmy, old scout? Eh? Th’ boy—did he get well? Sure— you betcha! Not only that—but I got them two to see how foolish they’d been.
Now, they’re happy agen’—in a cosy little place, back in Barrville—next door to Rosie an’ me. They’ve another little chap now—promisin’ kid—named Bob
What’s ’at? No, I AIN’T! Gimme a match!
Well, here comes th’ wife—let’s be goin’ into supper, hey? Rosie, dear— Jimmy’s an old side-kick of my royal days. I was jist tellin’ him about th’ dragon I had to go wallop to win me a wife!