The Big Hick

A bit of high comedy concerning the sorrows of Big Time hockey and a “boob" who wasn't

FRANK MANN HARRIS March 1 1929

The Big Hick

A bit of high comedy concerning the sorrows of Big Time hockey and a “boob" who wasn't

FRANK MANN HARRIS March 1 1929

The Big Hick

A bit of high comedy concerning the sorrows of Big Time hockey and a “boob" who wasn't

FRANK MANN HARRIS

I SEE where a Big Town team is giving forty thousand for young Creagan’s contract, which is quite a chunk of dough even after you allow the usual discount for those sporting-room head-spinners’ imagination. The old game is certainly stepping up into the big time fast. Ten years ago, when I broke in, you could run a whole league for a season on less that that.

Well, not meaning to knock the big hick in any way, but I’m not envying them their job of trying to get their money’s worth out of the deal. They’ve bought themselves 170 pounds of what should be as sweet hockey-playing ability as ever steps on ice; but whether they can discover, short of framing up a murder or so, the proper combination to make him do his stuff is something else again.

Of course, his press dope is elegant. Take those highpaid experts say-so, it was Creagan that won that last World’s Series for The Pinks, all by his lonesome; but you know yourself how much that really means. Maybe, it was him that scored all those goals, but I happen to know that if it wouldn’t of been for Blackie Dodds, with his everlasting kidding, the big cut of that series jack was going into our pockets instead of theirs.

But then, that Blackie would kid the hangman that was fitting him with a hemp necktie. Why, I mind one time he falls on the ice and big Murphy, the human elephant, steps on his hand, busting about nine bones. I am with him in the hospital after, when they are soldering it together, and I know it is hurting something fierce.

“Tell me, doc,” he says, the sweat fair pouring down his face from the pain: “tell me, is she ruined for keeps?” So the doctor tries to soothe him, saying everything will be jake.

“But Ï want to know,” Blackie persists, “will this here "hand ever be so I can play the piano?”

“Certainly,” the doctor tells him, “by the time the cast comes off, you will be able to play the piano fine.” “Now, ain’t this science the berries, Marty?” said Blackie, winking at me. “Here’s the doc going to fix this mitt of mine so I can play the piano—and me never even touched one of the darn things in all my life.”

A GUY like that, now, you couldn’t really wonder at him making a dead set at Creagan when he first escaped from the backwoods, for if ever there was one that looked as if he had just escaped from some comic strip, it was the hick. We are in Montreal shortly after the start of the season, with a game to play with each of the two clubs there before leaving. So just before we tie into the Frenchmen, Eddie comes and says that I am to look after the team, as he has to blow out of town for a few days. He don’t tell me why, or where, and I don’t ask, because when our gang isn’t going any too smooth, the less talk you have with our dear manager the easier it is on the ear-drums.

A couple of afternoons later, a bunch of us are hanging around the hotel lobby, still beefing about whose fault it was we lost the game, when in walks Eddie, trailing behind him the rawest-looking specimen you could wish to set an eye on.

Close to six feet tall, he is, and composed mostly of knees, elbows and bones. He has an overcoat on that his arms stick out of a foot; a fur cap all the moths in the country have been using for a tourist camp; and when he removes that, he displays the bushiest mop of lemon-colored hair I have ever seen outside a freak tent. He must have been cheating the scissors for years; but the barbers have taken a horrible revenge by razoring his neck bare naked halfway to the top of the ears.

Eddie comes over to us, while the stranger sidles to the chair nearest the door and sets down blushing.

“Where did you get it,” somebody asks, “and what do you call it?”

“What made you fetch it in alive,” Blackie chips in before Eddie can answer, “when all you need to do is bring in the pelt and save freight on the carcass?”

“That,” snaps our manager indignant, “is the coming star hockey player of the world. His name is Bill Creagan, and while you tramps are loafing here in luxury I am shivering away up north discovering him in a little league back in the mining country. And I don’t mind warning all you forwards that before long he will be making you step lively to hold your jobs.”

“I’m glad you told us,” Blackie says, “because I would of took my oath it was one of them curly wolves that the government pay a bounty on.”

“For that crack,” Eddie says, “I’m going to make him room with you.” And sure enough he goes and instructs the clerk to move Pud Herman out of the room that him and Blackie shared, and put the new lad in.

Eddie presently fetches the hick over and introduces him round, but all the conversation he appears to have in stock consists of grabbing you by the hand and making choking noises in the throat and blushing. Before long he does a quiet fade-out and nobody notices where he goes, and it isn’t till later that we discover that he climbs nine flights of stairs to his room, not even knowing there are such things as elevators, let alone how to ride one.

We don’t see any more of him that night, so in the morning we ask Blackie how his new buddy has been making it.

“Not so good,” Blackie reports. “The poor young feller has a tough night on account of not being used to beds with springs in them, and every time he rolls over he imagines he is going to get throwed out on the floor.”

“What do you think of him?” I asks.

“All I hope,” Blackie says, “is that we keep him even if he can’t skate a lick. He'll be worth carrying for all the laughs he’s going to hand me. What do you think he says to me this morning?”

“He probably tells you that you snore louder than three saxophones, which is the truth,” Pud Herman remarks.

“I would a damsite sooner snore like a gent than be crabbing at referees in my sleep all night the way you do,” says Blackie. “But what I was going to tell you— when I get up, this big hick is still in the hay, but by the time I come out of the bathroom he is awake and half dressed. So I naturally ask him, ain’ the going to take no bath, and he says No, he had took one three nights before leaving and don’t need another yet.”

Personal, I couldn’t see anything so wonderful funny about that I was brought up in a small village myself, and I know there is many’s the man who swears that he would be simply lost without his morning tub, who was darned glad to postpone bathing as long as the sanitary laws allowed when he had to carry the water from a frozen pump instead of running it out of a faucet.

But some of them acted as if it was the richest joke ever heard, and all the while Creagan sticks with us he never did hear the last of it. They nickname him “Bathless Bill” and send him flossy packages containing soap, and regular every Saturday a half dozen of them would remind him what day it was and to be sure not to overlook the weekly splash. It certainly don’t take much to amuse some of the young nit-wits that are parading around as hockey players nowadays.

Creagan takes it all real good-humored, not answering Anybody back and not letting on in any way that it bothered him the slightest bit. But I guess now that some of it must have sunk deeper under his hide than he let on. His very first pay-check he sloughs all the backwoods costume and buys some regular scenery; and he lets a barber mow a couple of cords of wool off his snatch and slick back what is left nice and smooth. And when that is done, he turns out to be not such a badlooking goof after all. Pie never will be shot for handsomeness, but he has a nice clear skin and a wide-open grin that sort of gets you.

And with the other things he gets the bathing habit something chronic. Inside a fortnight Blackie Dodds is bellyaching that he would rather have Niagara Falls for a room-mate, what with the water roaring in their tub every five minutes.

But much as Creagan gets joshed about his habits and appearance, nobody isn’t making any fun of what he can do in a uniform. He is a natural-born hockeyplayer and from his very first work-out he flashes class. He skates like a scared moose, packs a nice shot, carries a puck good, and can take his bumps. He has a heap to learn, of course, but with polishing it is easy seen he is a cinch to make the grade.

Ordinary, Eddie would have farmed him out for seasoning, but v/ith injuries and one thing and another, our forward line is so shot right then that we carry him along. He sets on our bench wherever we are, watching close and taking in every move with those big eyes of his. And after a game is over he will come to me and ask questions about this and that till I can’t rest. For some reason he takes a sort of fancy to me and I teach him plenty.

We are in Chicago one night, after he has been with us a month, and after we get four or five goals up and the game is in the bag, Eddie throws him out there at right wing; and instead of blowing up from nervousness, like you might expect, Creagan makes good off the reel. He checks those Chicago forwards all over the ice, hands Higgins a honey of a pass for a goal, and winds up by splitting their defence wide open and burning one into the net all by himself.

FROM then on we use him a lot as a spare and he improves every start. His one big fault is that he is too blamed good-natured. When a newcomer tries to break in, the boys always begin by attempting to get his goat, putting him over the hurdles and slipping him the elbow and the like; and if a rookie don’t show fight, they soon peg him as having a yellow streak.

“Fire up,” I tell him continual. “When one of those monkeys crashes you into the boards, the next time he comes close you go after him and give him all you got.” But Creagan just grins and keeps on taking all they hand him, not whining any, but not fighting them back the way he should.

At that, he turns in some real fair performances, and even the papers begin to discover he is alive. He gets several nice write-ups and our manager starts throwing out his chest and admitting, if you ask him, that Eddie Mullen is just about the craftiest scout living. He even admits it without no asking.

Still, Eddie has his troubles, too. It gets along to halfway through the schedule, and the team is not much better than holding its own. The forward line has all its cripples back again and is going good, and little Jimmy is playing his usual grand game in goal. But our defence is our weakness. So long as Pud Herman and me can be out there together, everything is all right; but tv/o men can’t do it all nowadays, and we haven’t a sub defence man worth the powder to touch him off.

So when Pud, down in Pittsburgh, goes and gets in a jam in a corner where he hadn’t any business to be, and comes out with a fractured wrist, we are up creek without a paddle for fair.

An hour after it happens, Eddie has hopped a train and we know something is coming off. He is the greatest little trader there is, and when he returns home a few days later we learn that he has engineered a three-corner deal whereby young Creagan goes to The Pinks, and we get Moriarty from The Sea Lions. And when I hear who is coming to us, I out-holler any sea-lion which ever climbs a rock and roars for the keeper to toss out some fish.

Not that I don’t know how good Moriarty is just as well as you do. I can turn in a fair chore of defenceplaying myself, as the records will show; but the best day I ever lived I never claimed to be even close to that red-head’s class.

The trouble v/ith him is that for every minute he is on the ice he is liable to spend two on the penalty bench. The greatest player living—and the quickest tempered. I don’t suppose he ever was the first to start any dirty work—but just leave somebody else begin handing out butt-ends or chopping ankles, and up comes the big stick and the war is on. He has sent more to the hospital than I carry scars on my body, and the only reason he hasn’t been banished for keeps a dozen times is that he is always so sorry a minute after it happens that they always give him another chance.

But that don’t alter the fact that the man playing alongside him has to do a heap of double work, so I had license to moan. “Here’s me,” I says to Eddie, “with this bum knee and all, sweating my gizzard out for you, and all the thanks I get is for you to hand me Moriarty, who will be sitting in the cooler the balance of the season while I am out there playing defence lone-handed.”

“He won’t sit in any cooler while I have him,” Eddie says.

“Then me and you can’t be thinking about the same egg,” I says. “This must be one of the civilized Moriartys.”

“You wait ánd see,” Eddie insists. “You mean, wait and suffer,” I says.

I take Creagan down to the station and see him off and wish him good luck with his new club. I try to impress him that he must fight the rough babies back more, and he promises he will do so, although I know it isn’t in him. He appears to be real sorry at leaving me and, some way, I feel kind of bad, too.

WHEN Moriarty hits town, Eddie calls me and him into the office and the three of us have a session. Eddie starts right in on the red-head without gloves.

“Listen, you big gorilla,” he says, “I have took you on this club for the one reason that there wasn’t nobody else I could get. Now, I know what you can do; and I also know you have come close to wrecking every outfit that ever owned you through not being there when needed. Now, get this and get it good—in this town they won’t stand for therough stuff. None whatever. And while you wear our uniform you are going to play hockey, and

clean hockey, and nothing but. You hear me?”

“Sure, I hear you,” Moriarty answers. “What’s all the shooting about? Sure thing, I’ll try and play clean.”

“Try and play clean,” Eddie hollers. “You dam well have to play clean and I’ll tell you for why. Because every game there is going to be a John Law camped back of the penalty bench, and just so sure as you carve anybody with your stick, or crown anyone, that John Law is going to take and sling you in jail. And when I come round the next morning I will tell them to throw the keys away.” Moriarty just grins sort of sheepish, as if he don’t believe it is meant on the level.

“You think I am bluffing?” Eddie goes on. “Well, just you ask anybody what happened to the last man that injured anybody serious around here. All he got was sixty days, but he had never been in trouble before and had a lot of influence working for him, too. You, with your lousy rep, would get a year easy.”

You could see that Moriarty was some impressed, and he gets it rubbed in even more the first time he shows with us. Before he goes on the ice Eddie grabs his shoulder and points over by the penalty coop where, looming up like a five-ton truck, is a huge big bull in uniform—a particular friend of Eddie’s, but the red-head don’t know that.

“There he stands,” Eddie says, “and just one wrong move from you and away you go.”

I honestly believe Moriarty plays that whole evening with one eye on the puck and the other on the coop. He stays on the ice a full sixty minutes, wins the game with a shot I would of bet dough wasn’t possible to make, and never gets even a cross look from the referees.

Without wanting to boast, I don’t mind admitting that for the rest of the season anybody scoring goals on us certainly earned them. Moriarty kept his play clean as a kffff’s tooth, and his style and mine fitted together perfect. We bumped those incoming forwards fair enough, but we hit them plenty hard, and the few that did manage to chisel in close on little Jimmy didn’t do so without knowing they had been to the races. We go into a long winning streak that don’t wind up till the regular schedule is over and we are sitting pretty on top of our half of the league.

Us and The Pinks only had one game together after Creagan joins them, and as they get in late in the afternoon and have to travel again that night, I don’t have much chance to find out how he is making it. But I watch the papers close and he appears to be doing fair enough. They are using him as a regular and he is scoring his share of goals, although not setting any rinks afire with sensational work.

However, he is with a good team, and after an extra game they nose out the Big Town club and finish in front of their division. So it is us and them for it in the big Series,

It is to be best three out of five and, of course, Eddie has to lose the toss, which gives us the first pair at home, with the other three, if it goes that far, on The Pinks’ ice.

V\7"E COMMENCE good—too good— W winning the opener three to nothing, and the second by the only goal is tallied. When we are packing up, there isn’t a man of us wouldn’t of bet his life it is all over but counting the winners’ split. They haven’t showed a thing dangerous —a light, fast team that is duck soup for the hard bodying Moriarty and me hand out.

We are looking for it to be all washed up in three straight, and nothing is going to suit me better personal. I have a weak knee that, some way, don’t seem to get any better from year to year; and at the end of our long schedule I am generally playing on one leg and my nerve; I Moriarty having been such a big help to me, it isn’t as painful now as I have had it; but still, I know there aren’t more than two good games left in it, and the sooner it is resting in the armchair back home the better I will be satisfied.

And right away everything goes bluey. Maybe we are over confident, or else The Pinks are a different bunch with their own rooters behind them. The first game there they shove in three goals before we know play has begun, and we never do get close. Two nights later little Jimmy bobs his nut to let a high one go over, and it just catches the top of the net and stays in and is enough to give them the game.

And there we are all knotted up, and them coming like a house afire and us slipping fast. We are all terrible, but I am the worst of all, the last ten minutes as much good to the team as a powder puff, and only managing to stick through Moriarty doing most of my work as well as his own.

The next two days we hold a lodge of sorrow around our hotel. Eddie gets doctors and bone-setters and specialists by the dozen and they do everything to my knee but offer up prayer; but they know as well as me that nothing but a long spell of rest is ever going to bring it back to life.

In all my time I never do see such a wild bunch of lunatics as are packing that big arena the Friday evening of the deciding game. This grand comeback of The Pinks, after their miserable beginning, has got their supporters behind them solid once more and the noise they are making is something awful.

I tell Eddie he would better keep me on the bench, but he says he would sooner have me, as long as I can stand, than some punk that is liable to go haywire under the strain. So I pull on the gloves and drag the dead knee out there to my place beside the red-head.

So much depending on that game, both sides go out instructed to play it close to the chest and take no chances; so the opening period the puck is around centre ice mostly, with the forwards checking so close that neither defence has much to do. There is no scoring, and we go off for the first intermission with little Jimmy singing his old song: “Get me just one lousy little goal and leave the rest to me.”

I hadn’t made a move up to then, so at the start of the second period I pull an old one on them. From the face-off the puck travels back to me and I hobble with it down to about the middle of the ice. From there I let go a low, easy shot, which don’t rise two feet and travels so slow you could write your name on the puck. But it drifts between a defence man’s legs, and their goal-tender sees it too late and takes a swipe at it, fanning completely. And the little red light shows up and the big crowd gives a groan.

Eddie signals to play it safe and make them come to us and for the remainder of that session we give those Pinks a lesson in how to protect a one-goal lead. When the gong rings the second time we still have them one down and they have lost a heap of their cockiness.

But the twenty minutes still to go stare me in the face like a life sentence. I have managed to stall them off up to now, with a lot of help from Moriarty, but how I can do it much longer is more than I can figure. Nine out of ten of The Pinks attacks have been sent around my side, because even when I am right there isn’t a forward living wouldn’t sooner try to circle me than the red-head; and in the shape I am in now they would be cuckoo not to take advantage of it.

“Hang on just as long as you can, Marty,” Eddie whispers to me.

“Thanks, Eddie,” I ;ays, “and if you would just tell me what to hang on to, everything would be peaches.”

r"PHE final period hardly starts when

one of those fool referees busts a skate and there is a five-minute delay while he gets a new one. I sit down near our goal to take the weight off my leg; and from there I can see young Creagan and Blackie Dodds standing over by the side talking. Having had plenty of grief of my own to occupy me, I haven’t been paying much attention to the lad. I know that him and Blackie have been camping on one another’s tails so close all the series that neither has done any scoring, but that is all. And when I see them chewing the fat together, I don’t think anything of it. At least not then I don’t.

The referee comes back and the whistle blows and I immediately get the big surprise of my life. Young Creagan grabs the puck, sidesteps Blackie, and leaving him as if he is leg-locked, sails down toward our defence all alone.

I get set for him to come around my side, as he is a dead right-hand-shot; but when he gets close he makes a sudden swerve and crosses in front of me. As he goes past I poke the puck loose, so I get it and pass it out to a forward. Then I look around to see Moriarty, all doubled over and holding his side. I ask him what is the matter.

“Haven’t you got eyes?” he says. “That long-legged gander comes in and gives me the butt-end deliberate. The next time he is in swinging distance I will carve him into small pieces.”

“Be your age,” I tell him. “That kid never hurt anyone deliberate in his life. He must of tripped or something. And, for Heaven’s sake, don’t start anything and get yourself ruled off.” So the redhead settles away, mumbling to himself.

Less than a minute after, I am a Chink if the very same thing don’t happen again. Creagan comes in alone, swerves across, and crashes into Moriarty. The puck goes over to the boards this time, so I can watch what takes place. And I see Moriarty take as dirty a butt-end just below the heart as any man ever gets.

The red-head’s stick comes up and I am just in time to stop it at the top of its swing. “Don’t be a fool,” I says. “The kid has gone clean nuts, but take everything and stay in the game. We need the dough.” I have a hard job of itas Moriarty is boiling by now, but again I manage to get him partly cooled out. The referees, of course, haven’t noticed a thing.

But when Creagan repeats the dose a third time, I am too far away to save him. Once more he sails in and butt-ends Moriarty, but in this case he gets a receipt. The big stick crashes Creagan’s dome and he goes down like a peck of dishrags.

The luck of a fool is with him, and he isn’t even hurt serious, let alone killed. Maybe, Moriarty being out of practice so long spoils his aim. Anyway the blow is only a glancing one, and in a couple of seconds Creagan is up again as good as new.

But the red-head is through for the evening. The sort of rules we got now, you can’t openly crown anybody and get away with it; and the referees that couldn’t see a thing Creagan did, are not so blind as to overlook Moriarty. “Off for the rest of the game,” is the verdict, and we are left with twelve minutes to go, and six men for them against four and a cripple.

The rest of it was in all the papers, so I needn’t linger over the sad part of it. Still going as if he is loaded with hop, young Creagan makes that puck sit up and talk Spanish. I do the best I can, and so do the others, but it would have taken about ten good men to stop him, the way he is traveling. By the time the slaughter is over he has scored four goals practically unassisted; and The Pinks carry him off on their shoulders, while we crawl away with our chins playing tag with our wishbones."

However, it is all in a day’s work and the most of our gang have been through it all before. So, as the two teams jam their way through the crowded alleyway to the dressing-rooms, there isn’t any real hard feeling, and we are beginning to jolly one another about where we will do our summer’s loafing. I do make it my business to stick close to Moriarty, but he is the kind that lays down the tools as r.oon as the quitting whistle blows, and by now he is laughing with the rest, with no thought of anything which takes place previous.

But when we are passing The Pinks’ room door, all hell busts loose once more. Creagan breaks away from the mob that is making a fuss over him and leaps out into the alley facing Moriarty. “Here,” he shouts, his eyes blazing, “try this on that delicate beezer of yours.” And with that he swings a right that lands on the red-head’s snoot, knocking him stiff.

Moriarty gets up so quick, you think he bounces and his decks are cleared for action; but by then The Pinks have hustled their man inside and slammed the door, and me and six or seven others have grabbed hold of Moriarty. He is off his head with rage; but luckily we have only just time to get dressed and catch our train home, so we manage to get him away without any bloodshed. A lot of beer appears from some place and the boys are all relieving thirsts that have been months in the making; and the redhead swallows five or six bottles of the brew one after another, which probably helps to get his mind off his feelings.

Eddie and me ride herd on him all the way to the station for fear he will try and escape, and when we get on the train the three of us go into a compartment. Moriarty is still craving to fight— Creagan preferred, but anybody else will do if he isn’t handy.

KNOWING that Eddie is probably safe with him on account of his size and the spectacles he wears, I leave the two of them and go out in the corridor. There is something puzzling me, and I intend to find out the answer.

I limp along till a voice singing “The Rosary” tips me off to where Blackie is. He always starts warbling hymn-tunes after a few beers. I go in and find him lying on his berth, slightly lit, and not a care in the world.

“Hello, old timer,” he greets me. “I would buy you a drink, only I am just fresh out of beer, but if you will set down I will sing to you instead.”

“Nix on the harmony,” I says. “I want to know what it was you said to young Creagan just after the start of that last period.”

“What did I say to the big hick?” Blackie answers. “Why, nothing at all that I can remember.”

“You lie,” I says, “and you know it. You told that lad something that set him on fire and cost us the game; and I’m just curious enough to want to find out what it was, and if you don’t give me the lowdown I will give you the beating of your life.”

It takes me a good half-hour to get at the truth, because Blackie wanted to >hoot crap, play pinochle, run me a footrace—anything but tell me what I was after. But bit by bit I had it out of him.

It appears that all through the series Blackie had been riding Creagan hard, trying to provoke him into a flare-up so he gets himself put off; but nothing he could do in the way of mussing the lad’s hair up in the corners, or throwing the hip into him as he goes past, has had any effect. Creagan is out there to play hockey and no referee is going to put his cue in the rack if he can help it.

“So it looks as if the big hick hasn’t any goat to get,” Blackie says; “till to-night I happen to think about that old joke we had, when Eddie first captures him, about never taking a bath. So I call him ‘Bathless Bill’ a couple of times, and the way he reddens up I can see he don’t like it a bit.” “That don’t explain him going after Moriarty,” I says.

“I'm coming to that,” Blackie goes on. “When the delay comes in that last period I begin sympathizing with him, telling him what a rotten break it is, him getting traded off a championship team on to a sure loser; and the hick near takes my breath away by finding enough words to inform me that I don’t need to be throwing no bouquets at myself, because if it wasn’t for you and Moriarty we never would have got into the Series, let alone win it. Can you imagine, Marty, a dummy like him cracking one like that at me?”

“He isn’t so dumb as some of you wise boys think,” I says. “And then, what?”

“Well, then, I tell him that I don’t wonder at him boosting for you, Marty, because you have always been a good friend to him. ‘But,’ I say, T sure am surprised at you sticking up for a sucker like Moriarty, with the opinion he has of you.’ So, of course, the big hick wants to know why Moriarty should have any opinion of him when they aren’t even acquainted with one another.”

“And what lie did you feed him when he asked you that?” I says.

“Why,” replies Blackie, “I just merely says, ‘Maybe you don’t know Moriarty personal, Bathless, but he certainly seems to have heard a lot about you; because not ten minutes ago, in the dressing-room, he was saying how thankful he was you never came near his side of the ice on account of this being Friday night and him having a very sensitive smeller.’ So then, of course, the game goes on; and that’s how it was, Marty, and would you like to hear me sing ‘The Holy City?’ ”

Without a word I leave Blackie and go out in the corridor. I wasn’t puzzled any longer why Creagan had lit into Moriarty. The wonder was, with the dirty lie Blackie had made up, the lad hadn’t killed the red-head stone dead.

But the more I thought about it the more it seemed to me there was something wrong somewhere. We had lost the game and the winners’ cut; Moriarty had took three pokes in the ribs and one on the smeller; and Bill Creagan had been mortally insulted into making himself a real hockey player. And the man responsible for it all was laying there not getting a thing for all the trouble he had gone to.

“Blackie,” I says, opening his door again, “did you say you would like another drink?”

“Would a duck go swimming?” he responds prompt.

“Then come with me,” I says.

I led the way to the compartment where Eddie and Moriarty are. I can hear the red-head still hollering for somebody to fight, and the little manager trying to pacify him. I stick my head in and tell Eddie to come out. As he does so, I grab Blackie by the shoulder and push him through the doorway.

“Here, Moriarty,” I yells, “Here is the guy that got you those cracked ribs and busted nose. I thought maybe you would like to thank him.”

Then I shut the door and Eddie and me stand listening. For a minute there is dead silence and then it commences. It reminds me something like the heavy artillery I hear when I am at the war, only a lot louder. So as there don’t seem to be anything to do about it, I hobble off to my berth and go to sleep.

In the morning Blackie comes and tries to tell me a lot of things. From what little I can make out, it appears that for some reason he is a trifle sore at me; but then he is such a kidder that you never can tell whether he is on the level or not.

And maybe I am mistaken, at that, because the shape his mouth is in, you can’t hardly understand a word he is saying. Matter of fact, if it wasn’t for the necktie he is wearing, which is one I have seen often before, I doubt if I would have known it was Blackie at all, his face is so changed.

Still, if I was running a hockey team and wanted to make sure of getting my money’s worth, I would hire some guy and pay him good to insult young Creagan about three times a week.