Thicker Than Water
Blood will tell even on the gridiron, although the results are not always what one would expect of brotherly love
HE Queen’s University stadium on Football Day. A glorious tan and gold October afternoon.
In the long bleachers, a throng of students and cheap-seaters, milling, jostling, laughing. The women’s section, flaunting smart furs and golden chrysanthemums. The men’s section, with streaming university colors, a little mad this afternoon. The cheap-seaters, quieter perhaps, smoking in happy anticipation, comparing today’s team with the great machines of yesteryear.
Let the students sit with the cheap-seaters. This is their team fighting today, but that does not matter. Let them sit on the hard bleachers in the sun. Save the comfortable grandstand for rich townsfolk, for moneyed alumni and visiting McGill.
In the grandstand, costly clothes and subdued merriment. Here and there someone politely intoxicated. Greetings called over heads; rugs tucked about knees. Good tobacco and good humor. Anticipation.
Blare of bands. Skirl of pipes, for Queen’s is nominally Scotch. College football !
Fifteen thousand people here today. A record crowd for the little stadium in the little old city.
And now fifteen thousand pairs of eyes turning to the field where the Queen’s team is trotting out. A triumphant roar from the bleachers.
Single file, across the field, led by Alfie Pearce, dusky and immortal mascot. Red, yellow and blue tricolor resplendent in the sun. Now a few practice formations, limbering up; a slim, keen quarterback snapping at them,
sending them scooting through their paces. New yellow footballs rising from husky toes, turning and spiralling high into the autumn air, caught dexterously in never-failing
Five minutes of this. Butchers and bookkeepers passing judgment from the sidelines. And then another roar. The McGill team, Red and White, taking the field.
Fifteen thousand people, watching, see the young Queen’s quarterback turn from his team to watch the Red and White trotting out. They see him leave his place and run easily across, until Tricolor, slim and eager, confronts Red and White, burly and heavy.
The hand of the Queen’s man goes out to meet the hand of the McGill man. The former is evidently pleased; the latter also pleased, but, as well, embarrassed. They talk for a moment and turn back to their teams.
“The Bennet boys,” fans say wisely to each other. “Brothers, you know. One on each team. Harold, the younger one, is Queen’s quarterback, and he’s good, I want to tell you. The best in the country this year, they say. Big Bill struggles along at middle wing for McGill.”
“ ‘Struggles along’ is right. I was in Montreal for the first game, and Bill was third substitute then. He never got off the bench. If they hadn’t had such tough luck getting so many good men cracked up and all, he’d be warming a bench today, too. Just the same, it should be interesting.”
“Yeah. I’m keen to see the big fellow, if his kid brother tries to come through there. I bet he smears him.”
“They say their folks are here, too.”
More limbering up on the field.
More comments in the bleachers. Expert opinions by gardeners and greengrocers. Pro and con. This team may be good, but do you remember the 1924 outfit? Boy, that was a team.
It won’t be long now.
DOWN on the field, Harold Bennet, waiting for the whistle, sent his team through warming-up work automatically. His mind was not on it.
The Tricolor team did not seem to take the business seriously. There was no pregame strain today. They would win handily. They had beaten McGill easily in Montreal, and with the added advantage of the home field they expected no difficulty. The linemen sprang into and out of formations and the backs tested the wind with long punts, but there was no earnestness in the movements. There did not need to be.
Harold, even while he snapped signals at his men, was thinking of Bill. Good old Bill, over there in Red and White right now.
He did not know whether he was glad or sorry that Bill was getting a chance today. It was a break for his big, awkward brother, all right; the thing that Bill had been striving for for years. But Harold did not want to play against him.
He knew what the result would be. Outstanding credit, not to say glory, for himself, and ignominy or perhaps even disgrace for Bill. That was how it would be, how it always had been. Whenever they came together, Harold sparkled and Bill went into an eclipse that was accentuated by comparison. Harold did not want that.
Today of all days he wanted Bill to shine. Their parents were in the grandstand, in town for the event. A great day for them. And with them sat Bill’s girl.
Determination formed in Harold’s mind. Bill had to be good today.
He looked around, discovered that the whistle would not sound for a moment yet, and allowed his mind to slip back into its channel.
It had always been like that. Even when they were kids at school big Bill had been outshone and outstripped by his kid brother. Academics and athletics. It was all the same. Bill, four years older, had had that much start, but Harold, through no particular effort of his own, had overcome the handicap until he entered his final preparatory year just as Bill finished it.
Bill, looking around for a university, had picked on Queen’s at first, probably because it was a goodly distance from home and brother. And then came the announcement. Queen’s had conferred a scholarship on Harold, so that he could enter without that final prep year. It meant that they could go to Queen’s together.
Bill had rebelled then. With something of the attitude
of a bear against a wall, he had stood up and said that he was not going to Queen’s. He had changed his mind. He would go to McGill or nowhere. So the Bennet boys had attended different universities.
In his first year at Queen’s Harold had made the university football team. In his last year at McGill Bill was third substitute on the Red and White team. Today, through the co-operation of fate and a crippling Varsity offensive a week before, he was getting his chance. Bill Bennet, the broken reed, was all they had left.
Good old Bill.
Harold, as the teams lined up for The King, felt a wistful sadness creeping over him. The anthem, with teams standing at attention, with the sudden hush over thousands of standing spectators, always affected him like that, but it was especially poignant today.
He shrugged himself out of it. This was no time for sentimentality. He would play the game and Queen’s would win, but old Bill would have to shine if Harold had to pick him up and carry him across the Queen’s line.
The anthem over. Benches creaking under resumed loads. The pent-up, bursting roar from the bleachers. The shrill of a whistle and the thud of a toe on the up-tilted ball. The game was on.
QUEEN’S kicked off. Bailey, ace of rear guards, got his _toe well under the ball and sent it high and clear to the McGill twenty-yard line. Harold, going down under it, knew that a McGill man cast himself at his feet, trying to trip him, but he stepped clear easily, automatically.
It was an instant before he realized with something of a start that the man had been Bill. His own brother. Harold was aware of mingled emotions but of necessity he put them out of his mind.
The McGill back eyed the ball sailing toward him, wiped his hands on his trousers, went back one step, caught unerringly, and started ahead. He went five yards and was pulled down in the grip of four Queen’s tacklers. McGill’s ball thirty-five yards out.
As had been expected, they used the huddle system. To the dissatisfaction of the fans, no signals were called. Before each play, the Redmen stuck their heads together in a momentary whispered conference, exposing only a circle of Red backs. Then, wheeling to their places, the ball was snapped and the play was on.
There was some surprise now. Evidently the Red-White quarter distrusted the strength of his line, for he kicked on the first down. Harold, looking on from a quarterback’s viewpoint, appreciated the strategy. He knew that McGill’s best chance of success lay along the kicking route.
McGill had the wind, and Harcourt, their sterling backfielder, made the most of it. He punted high and clear to the Queen’s twenty-yard mark, but his wings were slow, and Bailey gained fifteen yards before being grassed. Queen’s ball now.
Harold, standing behind his men, barked signals. “Twenty-four! Forty-three! Sixteen! Twenty-two!” He did it instinctively, while he looked along the McGill line, sizing it up, considering its points of weakness. Big Bill, crouched at middle wing, he noticed, kept his head averted; refused to encounter his brother’s eyes. Harold caught himself on the verge of faltering.
He would have to watch this. The presence of his brother on the field must not be allowed to throw him off his stride. “Hup! One! Two! Three!”
The ball came out into Harold’s hands. His left middlewinger came back, circled, picked up steam, snatched the ball, and tore through the right. A wedge of interference had made a hole, and he sailed through for five yards. Harcourt nailed him.
Second down now. Harold tried an end run, again around the right. Harcourt stopped that too, but not until Bailey had got around the end and completed the distance with three yards to spare. The yardsticks were moved.
First down again, and Queen’s ball almost at midfield. Harold looked the situation over and decided. Again he barked crisp signals.
“Eleven! Eighteen! Fifty-two! Twenty-seven!” A shift in the Queen’s formation. “Hup! One! Two! Three!” As Bailey came tearing past, Hal jammed the ball into his arms and the backfielder went ripping through the left wing—at Bill.
A sudden movement in the McGill line. A Red shoulder heaved, and Bailey went up in the air and fell back. Bill had stopped him.
There was glee in the McGill sections, and a buzz of conversation in the Tricolor stands. But the men down there on the field, on both teams, knew that Bill had been lucky, that he had stepped accidentally into the right place at the right time.
The Redmen were silent and probably grateful. The Queen’s men kidded the big fellow.
“Big brother’s lucky day, eh?”
“Keep away from Bennet, fellas.”
Harold snapped at them grimly. “Cut it out! Get on the ball and let’s go.”
Three times in succession Queen’s completed the distance and the yardsticks moved inevitably toward the McGill goal. It was a walk-away. Crippled and weakened by a
strenuous campaign, the Redmen could put no spirit into the defense. They seemed steeped in apathy, imbued with a preconceived acceptance of defeat. There was no snap to their work.
Before the game was ten minutes old, Bailey raced around the right end, straight-armed the Red flying wing, eluded Harcourt, and galloped twenty yards to an easy touchdown.
A moment later he converted it.
Queen’s 6: McGill 0.
The bleachers’ acclaim was not quite as exuberant as it might have been. There was no triumph here. This was not even a game. Queen’s fans wanted to win, of course, but they wanted to fight for the victory.
AT QUARTER time the teams changed ends, and McGill, faced by a stiffening breeze, was forced to change tactics. They settled down to a spiritless twobucks-and-a-kick game, but their attack was as weak as their defense had been.
Bill Bennet, at middle wing, was woefully ineffective.
Seldom did the Red quarter entrust him with the ball, and when he did the big fellow failed lamentably. He ran at the line in a half-upright position, knees high, in a manner that could never penetrate the Queen’s defense.
Hal’s eye. His jaw was set and a dull resentment smoldered in his eyes. He knew he was failing, and his natural reaction was a kind of sullen belligerency.
Hal, watching, felt an ache in his heart. Good, old, stupid Bill. It was enough to bring tears to his eyes. He bit his lips to keep from shouting instructions at Bill; he wanted to tell him to get down and get in there and hit the line hard, to put some guts in it, as if he meant it. For the first time he wanted to see a man tear into the Queen’s line, smash it, shatter it, and break through his own
But he bit his lips and played his game.
Only once did he come in contact with Bill.
Late in the second quarter, the Red pivot man took another chance
on the big fellow. He called for a buck through his left, and as he rammed the ball into Bill’s arms, he snapped in exasperation:
“Get down !”
The sting of his tone seemed to startle Bill. He crouched and hurtled past his interference and sent his weight crashing into the Tricolor. The Queen’s men, taken by surprise at the unexpected strength of his attack, parted and let him through.
Hal leaped and tackled instinctively, hard and clean, neatly, as he did everything. Bill came crashing to earth, heavily and clumsily, as he did everything.
As he climbed to his feet, Harold patted the big shoulder under his hand reassuringly, but Bill turned away so that he would not have to face him.
Because they were brothers, Harold knew what was in the big fellow’s heart at the moment. Bill had broken through, had proved to himself that he was as good as, or better than, the Queen’s defense, only to be pulled down by his kid brother. That settled it. Harold knew that by some psychological quirk Bill would quit trying now.
He was right. The Red quarterback, encouraged by Bill’s recent showing, sent him at the line again, and the big fellow failed through obvious lack of desire to make good. Harold found his heartache giving place to a sense of irritation. Why couldn’t the big chump get in there and play as if he meant it? He could not help being awkward, but he could help being a quitter. _
Time had been slipping away, and the young Queen s quarterback was surprised at the timekeeper s warning whistle. Three minutes to half time.
He barked at his team: Snap out of it, men! Three
minutes for a touch. Let’s go!”
The team tightened up and went to work. They battered
the Red line, pushed it back, rammed and thrust their way through it, raced around the ends; and such was the McGill defense that in less than three minutes they found themselves five yards out.
Harold himself went through the centre for the second Queen’s touchdown, and Bailey converted.
When the teams trotted off at half-time, Queen’s had
twelve points to McGill’s none.
DURING the intermission Harold sat alone in the comer of the dressing room, chin in hands, thinking. He did not want a rub-down; he was not even hot. He was sitting there when the coach entered.
A hush fell on the room; the coach would have something
Featherstone helped himself to a split lemon, sucked it, grimaced, looked at the lemon, the floor, the ceiling, and out the window.
“That’s all right, men,” he said, gazing through the glass. “Just keep it like that.”
That was all. He paid some attention to the lemon and shot quick glances from under averted brows at each of his men. Apparently satisfied, he strolled toward Harold. “No trouble today, eh?” he said to the lemon.
“Not much,” said Harold.
“Good.” After more grimaces: “Run it up a bit more and then give that forward pass a try-out, will you !”
The coach glanced keenly at his young quarterback, started to speak, hesitated, and finally strolled away.
Harold’s opportunity came before the second period was two minutes old.
McGill, with the wind at their backs, kicked off, and Bailey received. He made a spectacular run, dodging and
whirling, and gained twenty-five yards before being pulled down. Queen’s ball at their thirty-yard line, Now came a break for the Redmen. A Tricolor plunger,
grown careless through overconfidence, dropped the ball
and the McGill quarter recovered. In a twinkling the
positions were reversed. McGill’s ball now.
The sudden change of fortune put renewed spirit into the Red team. They sprang into a huddle and out again, and the ball was snapped far back to Harcourt. The backfielder was equal to the occasion. He punted beau-
tifully, and the ball, sailing with the wind, went deep behind the Queen’s goal line. Only Bailey’s generalship
prevented a certain score,
Continued on page 53
Continued from page 17
The canny backfielder had anticipated just such an eventuality, and he was on the spot at the right time. He caught faultlessly and began a squirming, twisting, dodging struggle to get out. Past frantic Red tacklers, eluding eager arms, leaping out of flying tackles, all trying to pull him down behind the line. And when he finally went down he had won; he was one yard out.
Queen’s ball, almost on their own goal line. A critical moment.
There was an astonishing change in the spirit of the McGill team. Given a foretaste of success, they were greedy for more, and»they were ready to fight for it. Even Bill showed signs of scrappiness.
Harold, as he lined up his men, checked an impulse to grin. He knew that, if he liked, he could launch an offensive that would strike that McGill line and bowl it over like a row of tin soldiers, and leave the Redmen just as dispirited as before. If he liked. But he did not like.
Several thousand Harold Bennet admirers in the stands now had reason to pause. For the first time in his career the star quarter made a serious misplay.
He called signals for a regulation buck through left wing, received a perfect snap, and turned to hand the ball to the plunger. At the critical moment it slipped from his hands and rolled along the ground. He pounced upon it at once, but the damage was done.
The plunger stopped and turned back. Harold, still holding the ball, sought frantically for an opening, for some way of getting it out. The Queen’s team was instantly in confusion—on their goal line.
It called for a lightning decision. Harold evidently decided on a kick. He broke for clear ground in which to get the punt away, retreating deep behind his own line, and whirled in the kicking posture. Immediately a swarm of Redmen surrounded him, allowing him no opportunity to hoist the ball.
It appeared to onlookers that Harold became rattled in the instant that followed and lost his head completely. He dashed this way and that, always hemmed in by Red sweaters, finally flung himself forward frantically, and collided with a burly McGill man. The Bennet boys went down together.
Other Redshirts leaped upon them in savage glee. Here at least was a safety touchdown. There would be no whitewashing today.
From the visitors’ section of the stands the McGill battle cry rang out triumphantly for the first time that day:
What’s the matter with old McGill?"
And across the field a thousand tongues, momentarily gifted with Gaelic, thundered the Queen’s call defiantly back at them.
Down under that struggling, swarming heap behind the Queen’s line, Harold did certain things with the ball, and when the men picked themselves up, it was discovered that the pigskin lay securely within the crook of big Bill’s arm.
“He stole it as we went down,” Harold said simply, and turned away.
Bill Bennet had scored a touchdown. The big, clumsy middle winger had stolen the ball and come through with the only major score the Redmen had, or were likely to get. Before 15,000 people, before his mother and father and his girl. Bill Bennet had starred.
For a long moment the referee looked at Harold. Finally he shrugged and signalled toward the score board.
Queen’s 12: McGill 5.
Other Queen’s players regarded each other iii consternation. They drew apart in a little group by themselves, discussing the affair. Harold was left standing alone.
The McGill team, after the first stunned moment of surprise, went trooping out to the field to attempt the convert, whooping and cavorting in the indescribable fashion
of a team that has just earned a major
All but Bill Bennet. He remained alone, standing behind the goal line where he had risen from the scrimmage. The Queen’s team stood apart from Harold; Bill stood apart from the McGill team. And the big fellow, with rage in his eyes, glared at his brother’s back.
Finally he strode over to Harold. His seething anger was evident even to those in the stands.
Gripping the younger man’s shoulder in a powerful hand, he whirled him around, thrust his face close and glared into his eyes. Harold, veteran of the gridiron, where tempers are lost and nerves are frayed, recoiled before the naked hatred he saw there.
The big fellow, panting with temper, snarled at him:
“Cut that out, dam you! Cut it right out." He gulped and gave the other an effortless shake. “I’ll get you—for that. Charity— !”
Words failed Bill. He gave Hal a contemptuous fling that sent him reeling and strode back to his team.
On a wave of irresistible enthusiasm Harcourt converted the try.
Queen’s 12: McGill 6.
'T'HERE was a grimness about the Tricolor team as it lined up for the kick-off. The men were tight-lipped and forbidding. McGill had earned a fluke touchdown; well, McGill was going to pay for that now.
Opposite them the Redmen exhibited signs of irrepressible delight, a kind of erratic, empty-headed enthusiasm that was all right in its place. But its place was not here. That kind of pep would never win games.
Bill Bennet alone seemed to keep himself in hand. He did not leap about and slap the turf and laugh, as did his friends. And yet Hal, glancing in his direction, saw that the big fellow’s outlook had changed mightily.
In the eyes where dull resentment had smoldered before, full-fledged hatred now flamed. The man had been jerked out of his apathy; his slumbering, fighting instinct was aroused. The head that had been averted was now erect. Vindictive, vengeful, Bill stared into the eyes of his brother.
Bailey kicked off for Queen’s. Harcourt received and struggled ten yards. McGill’s ball.
In the Redmen’s first huddle some dissent became evident. The quarterback was seen shaking his head; as he turned away a big hand hauled him back and Bill Bennet whispered fiercely in his ear. After some hesitation, the quarterback was seen to yield to obvious persuasion.
McGill, on the first down, plunged through the left wing. Bill Bennet carried the ball. And for the first time that day the visitors completed the distance and moved the yardsticks.
Big Bill was no longer Clumsy Bill. His rankling injury lent wings to his feet and all-conquering strength to his attack. He tore into the Queen’s line like a vindictive juggernaut, ripped it wide open, shattered it and cast it aside, and hurtled through for ten yards. A Queen’s lineman was carried off.
Other Tricolor men were on their feet and in their places in an instant. The incident served to rouse them. They lost no time in wondering, in bewildered conjecture. They tightened up and got down to business lest it occur again. A good
Similarly the Redmen lost some of their irresponsible exuberance and acquired a measure of resolute earnestness. It was as if a part of Bill’s determination and fixity of purpose radiated from him and permeated through his team. The childish enthusiasm of a moment before gave place to a dogged fighting spirit.
McGill’s ball, and the first down again.
A quick huddle, then on the ball, and Harcourt got away to a perfect end run, in which he gained seven yards. Bailey pulled him down. Another huddle, a kick formation, Harcourt with arms extended and ready, and then the McGill quarter brought success to the ruse by wriggling three yards through centre.
The yardsticks moving again. Pandemonium in the bleachers, the stands. College yells, triumphant and defiant, hurled across the scarred field. Queen’s backed up to their forty-yard line.
The game—the real game—had started.
Queen’s rallied and held their ground. Grim-lipped, fighting, desperate, they threw back two fierce McGill thrusts and forced Harcourt to kick. Bailey, receiving the punt, was downed in his tracks.
Queen’s were instantly on the ball and Hal was barking signals. His voice was crisp and decisive; his whole consciousness was brought to bear in the emergency. Sizing up the opposition, he glanced toward his left.
As he looked, his brother wrenched loose the chin straps of his helmet, as if they strangled him, and left them dangling. He crouched there, head up, finger tips on the turf, desperately eager for the fray. And he looked full into his brother’s eyes. Hal turned away before the venom he saw there.
For ten minutes the battle raged, seesawing back and forth. Now a gain for the Tricolor, now an advance for the Redmen. Fierce onslaughts, savage attacks, were met by fighting, desperate defense. No quarter was asked or given. Players tackled viciously, and were themselves thrown mercilessly. Thrust and counterthrust, cruel, crippling, man-killing.
Wild, tumultuous excitement along the sidelines.
On the field men rose from scrimmages with swollen lips and bleeding noses. Fists had swung down there under the heap. But no one squealed, nobody complained.
McGill was playing a tremendous game. In one moment they had leaped from mediocrity to a gloriously inspired state, insensible to pain, incapable of fatigue, lifted above themselves. Playing as a team plays but once in its career, perhaps never.
And to Bill Bennet went the credit for their transformation. Big Bill, the failure of a short time before, now spurring them on by force of brilliant example. He was the impenetrable rock of defense, the infallible spearhead of almost every attack. Omnipotent in his new-found strength, he led and they followed.
The Queen’s men, facing an inspired team, recognized it for what it was and feared it. They fought back with every ounce of strength that was in them, gritting their teeth and throwing back attack after attack by sheer force of will, and when it was their turn, launching an offensive that was just as bitter.
It was of no avail. The Redmen had become superhuman, and no team of mere flesh and blood could hold them. With the helping wind behind them, they thrust back the dogged, fighting Queen’s line inch by inch until, twice in the third quarter, Harcourt was in a position to send perfect placement kicks over the bar.
At three-quarters time—Queen’s 12: McGill 12.
WHILE they changed ends the men gasped for air. Water boys with slopping buckets raced on the field and players buried their faces in the cool contents. Trainers snatched a moment to clean cleats, to tape bleeding knuckles and sponge cut faces.
As they lined up again, the two quarterbacks as if by mutual consent, paused for an instant to take stock.
Harold glanced at his battered team. Cut and bleeding, bruised and dirty, they were still undaunted and ready for the fray. One man, crouched on the line, pawed the turf
like an eager horse. A burly lineman whimpered; another sobbed outright; a fleet outside wing swore continuously in a plaintive complaining tone.
These were their reactions to the strain of battle, and Harold knew that they were still ready to fight.
The McGill team was in a similar condition, but if anything, less demonstrative. Grim, unshakable resolution looked out of their smeared and broken faces.
And big Bill Bennet, the source of their inspiration, cut and bleeding, his face almost unrecognizable, glared still at the young Queen’s quarterback. Hatred, implacable and deadly, shone in his eyes. Harold, with a sob in his throat, turned away to start the
Somebody on the McGill line babbled hysterically.
“Twelve-twelve. Even now. All even
“No.” A strained voice spoke. Not Bill’s voice, although it came from him. "No, not even. Six points down.”
Players on both teams glanced at the big fellow. Funny, the way it affected some men. Bennet was obviously a little daft.
But Harold Bennet knew. He knew that Bill was sane, that Bill still had six points to gain, six points before his debt to charity was paid.
The game was under way again. Queen’s were glad of the wind at their backs now. They needed every advantage to withstand the desperate men before them.
Tooth and nail, hammer and tongs, by fair means and surreptitious foul means, the teams tore into each other again. All even and fifteen minutes to go. Fame and shame in the balance. Glorious victory or dismal defeat. Worth fighting for.
They fought. They battered and thrust, hammered and smashed each other. Now breaking through, now being thrown back. And at each repulse the Redmen seemed to acquire new strength, more ferocity. The harder the punishment, the faster they came back for more.
Harold was desperate. His men were being bruised and battered into submission. Their energy was being sapped; he could feel it oozing out of his team, feel them slipping. And with his fierce-eyed, hardjawed opponents, the reverse seemed to be
Even with the helping wind, the wearied Tricolor could not cope with the situation. Back and back they went, teeth bared and jaws set, struggling, straining every nerve and sinew, putting forth every ounce of their failing strength to stem the tide, but still back, until at last the wavering line broke.
Bill Bennet, providing interference for the runner, charged with overwhelming, irresistible force. He crashed into the tiring Queen’s line, ripped it open, and Harcourt sped through the hole. A sidestep, a straight arm, and he was beyond Bailey with a clear field before him. No man could have caught him then.
He converted his own touchdown.
McGill 18: Queen’s 12.
Lining up for the kick-off, Harold, looking around, felt that he did not know his own team. That last score had finished them; they were done, licked already. They knew that something greater than a mere football team confronted them that day; they knew they had no chance. The thought maddened him.
He wanted to tear into the Red team, to rend it apart, to crush it mercilessly, and in that instant he felt capable of doing it himself, alone and unaided. Something of the inspiration that imbued the Redmen swept over him, and for a moment he felt exalted, lifted out of himself.
As if in a daze, he heard Bill chanting monotonously:
“All even now. All even now. All even
That was Bill. That was Bill, his big brother; the big stupid fellow who was no
good, who couldn’t play football. That was who that was. Bill. Playing with McGill today.
Before the referee started the play, the timekeeper raced out with three fingers upraised. Three minutes to go.
Harold shook his head violently, trying to shake himself out of his stupor. He was the quarterback, the general. It was up to him to keep things going, to keep his men in the fight.
Queen’s kicked off and Harcourt received in flawless fashion. Play was on again.
As they took their places, Harold called to his men, begging them, pleading with them, now wheedling, now sneering, bullying and coaxing, to get them to fight back.
And for a while they responded. They put all they had, all their remaining powers of resistance, into the defense. But it was not sufficient. .
Back and back they went, rapidly now, even as the Red team had done a half-hour before, retreating before the irresistible march of the conquering visitors. McGill was not to be denied.
Minutes were flying. McGill, still in possession on Queen’s thirty-yard line, evidently thought there was not enough time to push their way to a major score, for they sprang into kicking formation.
Harcourt punted. Bailey, standing on the Queen’s goal line, went forward a step, caught, and then allowed the ball to slip from his wearied arms. When he retrieved it he was pinned down by four McGill men.
Queen’s ball two yards out. One minute to go.
A kick, Harold decided, would relieve the pressure. It would kill time and prevent further scoring. He called the signals.
Bailey, behind the goal line, stood in the rear of his secondary defense, ready and waiting for the ball. But the snapback, either through incompetence or fatigue, made a poor snap and the ball rolled along the ground.
Harold scooped it up. There was no opening, no place to go.
He started along the narrow space between the goal line and his right wing, seeking frantically for an opportunity to break through. And he failed.
A hurtling mass of grim vengeance burst through the Queen’s line, caught him, lifted him in all-powerful arms, hurled him bodily, ball and all, across the goal line, and leaped upon him, pinning him down.
It was another score for McGill. And the Bennet boys were down together again.
As the final whistle sounded a new score flashed on the board.
McGill 19: Queen’s 12.
Harold, down there under the pile, found himself sobbing. Finally the burly arm across his back slackened its pressure, crept up to his shoulders until it was almost a caress. He heard a choking sound near him. Big Bill, it seemed, was sobbing too.
There was a circle of Red stockings around them now. McGill was eager to do honor to her hero. But before they lifted him, Bill gave the young shoulders a squeeze and
“All square now, kid?”
“All square, Bill.”
They sat up. Bill, again with averted head, avoided his brother’s eyes. His hand came out slowly, gripped Harold’s, squeezed it with bone-shattering pressure.
McGill could wait no longer. Bill was hoisted shoulder high and borne in triumph toward the stands.
Presently a battered figure in Tricolor limped after them, stopped them. Through bruised, misshapen lips he whispered to a ringleader, and the procession thereafter changed its course, heading toward a point where an elderly couple and an eager girl sat waiting in the stands.
Harold stood watching them. Then, with hanging head, somehow sad, he limped slowly across the deserted field, alone and forgotten.