FICTION

Romance on Ice

Two hockey-mad sweethearts in rival hockey-mad towns — Referee Finnegan was definitely on the spot

LESLIE McFARLANE February 15 1937
FICTION

Romance on Ice

Two hockey-mad sweethearts in rival hockey-mad towns — Referee Finnegan was definitely on the spot

LESLIE McFARLANE February 15 1937

Romance on Ice

Two hockey-mad sweethearts in rival hockey-mad towns — Referee Finnegan was definitely on the spot

LESLIE McFARLANE

I CALL ’EM as I see ’em, understand. The score was tied with five minutes to go, but when I saw this big defense guy, Barrowby, dishing out the butt-end when he nailed the Maple Falls centre in a corner, I blew my whistle. Then I waggled two fingers at the bench. That’s how I got my nickname — Two-Finger Finnegan. The players know I don’t stand 'for rough stuff.

“What for?” howled Barrowby. “I didn’t do nothin’.”

“Get going!” I snapped, putting my hands on my hips and giving him the stare.

"Not me 1 won’t.”

I don’t stand for back talk either. I waved three fingers.

“Another crack out of you,” I said, “and I’ll make it five.”

“I got a good mind to sock you one,” he grumbled. Big, red-headed fellow, he was.

It was the first time I had ever handled one of these small-town games, and now I knew why the league secretary looked so pious when he gave me the assignment. A city crowd can get excited over a hockey game, but it doesn’t get as hot and bothered as one of these mobs. Half the town of Hollisburg had journeyed over for the battle, there had been about fifteen free fights up in the pews, and you would think the teams were playing for the Stanley Cup. So when I shunted Barrowby to the cooler for three minutes with the score tied, you can imagine how those Hollisburg bugs carried on.

They hollered murder. I thought they were going to come over the fence at me.

Barrowby was one of these dumb eggs who don’t know any better. When he heard his mob howling for my scalp he got encouraged. Just as he went by, he gave me the shoulder and almost dumped me.

“Okay, brother,” I said. “You asked for it.”

So I stuck up my hand and gave him the full five minutes.

The Maple Falls fans yelled their heads off. This was duck soup to them, seeing the visiting defense ace shown where he got off at, especially with the score tied. The Hollisburg gang, of course, wanted me shot at sunrise if not sooner. I hurried the face-off, the minute I saw Barrowby in the box. There’s nothing like keeping the game going to make the fans forget their troubles.

With the visiting squad a man short, it didn’t take Maple Falls a minute to break that tie. They went roaring in, tramped all over the opposition and socked home a goal in forty-five seconds by the clock. From the face-off they came swarming down on the hunt for another.

The puck went into a comer. A Hollisburg player snagged it and came out, playing it against the boards. I flattened myself against the fence when he went by.

And as I did so I felt a pair of arms flung around me and a fur collar rubbed against the back of my head and there was a smell of lilac perfume and somebody kissed me smack on the ear.

“Oh, I think you’re a darling!” she gurgled.

SHE SAID it as if she meant it, too. Boy! When I dropped to the ice, feeling myself getting red to the eyebrows, I stole a flash at hcr. And if she wasn’t the prettiest package I had lamped in five seasons, I’m no referee.

Don’t’ ask me for a diagram. You’ve seen her yourself if you’ve ever been at a small-town hockey match in Canada. The slim little trick in the sealskin coat, with the tiny green hat, all red lips and white teeth and pink cheeks and shining eyes, looking full of pep and excitement and the devil. You’ll only see her in Canada. It must be the climate.

That kiss burned my ear right until the end of the game. The Maple Falls team won. of course. They slapped in another goal while Barrowby was nursing his grouch in the penalty box, and that made everything hunky-dory for the home-towners. But my mind wasn’t on the game. I was thinking about that beautiful doll in the rail seat. Once, when I happened to glance her way, she slipped me a smile. And what a smile !

“Gosh !” I said to myself. “This swell dish must have fell

forVrfff>.

Now, none of the movie-hero fellows need be scared of their jobs so far as I’m concerned. I admit I’ve got big ears and my nose has been busted a few times when I used to play hockey. I’ve never been much of a lad for the dames, and none of them seemed to let it worry them any. So when a homely, overgrown gawk like me gets kissed on the ear by the cutest-looking babe this side of the Arctic Circle and she tells him he’s a darling and follows it up with a smile—well, gosh, I’m only human.

Maybe you think it ended there. It didn’t. I was taking my skates off in the dressing room after the game when a kid brought me a note. He was all grins. I shooed him out. It read:

“Dear Mr. Finnegan; I must apologize for embarrassing you so dreadfully tonight but I’m awfully impulsive and I was so excited when our team scored that goal, I just couldn’t help it. And I do think you’re the best referee we’ve ever had here. There is a dance in the Oddfellows’ Hall after the game, and if you should happen to go maybe you’ll have a dance with me and tell me that I am forgiven for being so bold.

Agatha S.”

Did I go to that dance? Did I meet her? And did we get along? My train left at one o’clock in the morning and I nearly missed it, what with kissing Agatha four times on the platform—twice by the mail-box and twice behind the baggage truck.

Her last name was Schultz but she was so pretty that it didn’t seem to matter. And after all, didn’t Mary Pickford start out as a Smith?

\yfY REAL JOB is hockey experting for The Sun, -*■^1. although the paper lets me handle refereeing assignments as a side line. Next afternoon in the office I was talking to Sally Raymond, who covers girls’ hockey and basketball and softball and the like, and I told her all about the girl I had met at Maple Falls.

Sally is a snub-nosed little tyke with the clearest blue eyes you ever saw. She can look pretty slick when she’s dressed up, but around the office she usually has a smudge of ink on her chin and she wears her clothes as if her rooming house caught fire that morning and she had to get out in a hurry.

“And what did you say her name was?” said Sally.

“I didn’t say. But it’s Schultz. Agatha Schultz.”

“Good night!” said Sally. “Sounds as if she’s been teaching the primary grade for thirty years.”

“Well, she hasn’t,” I snapped, peeved. “She’s just a nice, sweet, simple small-town girl—”

“Not simple. Don’t kid yourself, Mike. I know these small towns. 1 come from one myself. I’ll bet she’s just a man-crazy little flapper, and she’s giggling herself into hysterics today because she made a sucker out of the big-town referee. Why don’t you grow up?”

“Why don’t you mind your own business?” I growled and jammed a sheet of paper into the typewriter.

Sally slid down off my desk and thumbed her nose at me, which was not ladylike, but there’s something about a newspaper office that makes a girl forget a lot of the lessons she learned at her mother’s knee. I never did think a newspaper office was the best place for a girl, especially a sports department where there is considerable loose language floating around most of the time. You would never think Sally had once been a small-town gir Agatha, and when I looked over at her a little later a: her whacking away at her typewriter and blowing a of brown hair away from her eyes, with a smudge of her nose this time, I couldn’t help thinking of Agat the station platform, with her cute little pink-an ' face against the fur collar of her coat, and her big dark eyes . looking up at me and her red lips parted and her telling me^ there was something about me, she didn’t know what, that made me different from the small-town fellows she knew— heck, I could hardly write the story of that game at Maple Falls.

“Give me one of these old-fashioned small-town girls every time,” I said to myself. And when Sally’s typewriter keys jammed and she said a very unladylike word in a voice you could hear clean across the office, I couldn’t help thinking that you would never catch Agatha talking like that.

A WEEK LATER the association secretary sent me up to Hollisburg, which was a big surprise for I didn’t think that town would want any part of me after what I did to them in benching Barrowby at Maple Falls. But I guess they must have recognized real high-class refereeing when they saw it, for they didn’t squawk when they were told I was to handle the game.

"I suppose Maude Muller will be there," said Sally, when I told her I was going to Hollisburg.

“Maude who?” I said.

“I was afraid it would be over your head. She was just another corn-fed gal.”

“Where does she live?”

“In the Complete Works of Whittier,” said Sally. “We’ll just skip it.”

“If you’re making cracks about Miss Sçhultz—Agath,

I mean—I am sorry to inform yap that'she will not to come to the game,” I said, lofty-like.“I had a her this morning and sheJaas a cold. ”

-rr, “So? She canwffljg*&Wa»^ .

“She can and does,” I said. “I’ve had two let! her this week. ’ ’

“What a sap you’re going to roqk.” remark “when her lawyer starts reading the |fhswt

NOW, I WON’T say I Agatha,

but just the same I thought she "was a mighty sweet kid, and it was certainly flattering^ be getting letters from such a swell-looking doll, especially when she wrote that

she had dreamed about me and had cut my picture out of a newspaper and kept it under her pillow. I was gosh-damed disappointed that she wasn’t able to come over to Hollisburg for the game. But you never know what’s going to happen next, especially in these small towns.

In Hollisburg. I’m blessed if another knockout didn’t fall for me! Talk about Don John and Cass Nova and those fellows, if they’d been in the hockey racket their percentages would have gone sky-high.

Hollisburg wasn’t playing Maple Falls that night. They were stacked up against a team called the Pirates, from a town up at the north end of the county, and just before game time I skated around to give the goal-netting the onee-over when I heard someone calling to me from behind the screen.

“Mr. Finnegan! Oh, Mr. Finnegan!”

She had one of those soft, throaty voices, like a pigeon on a sunny roof and when I looked around—well, I’ve already said she was a knockout.

A blonde, this time -one of those creamy, golden blondes that you see once in a while in the “Vanities” or the “Scandals,” and once in a while in a small town like Hollisburg, but not often in the city where the smoke plays hob with their complexion. A honey-haired blonde who looked like a toothpaste ad. come to life. And she was talking to tne!

“Mike,” I said to myself as I straightened my tie, “there must be something about you that those city dames have just overlooked.”

“Mr. Finnegan,” she cooed in that soft velvety voice as I came up to the screen, “I hope you don’t think it’s forward of me, but your cousin, Ann Finnegan, used to go to school with me in Winnipeg. She has told me so much about you that I almost feel I know you. My name is Blanche MacNish.”

“Mighty pleased to meet you, Miss MacNish,” I said, and I didn’t just mumble it either, like when you are introduced to some old hag with a face like a milk-wagon horse. “I haven’t seen Cousin Ann since she was kneehigh, but I sure admire her choice of friends.”

“Now you’re just being polite,” cooed the blonde, and when she smiled she had a dimple that would make a Mormon forget his family ties. “But I really spoke to you, Mr. Finnegan, because we’re having a little party after the game, up at our house, and I’d love it if you could come. Please say yes, won’t you?”

I said yes. A man would have to be blind or ninety to say no to a blonde like that one.

When I left Hollisburg I couldn’t make up my mind which doll I liked best, Agatha or Blanche, for it certainly looked as if I had made a big hit with Miss MacNish and not just because of Cousin Ann either. There was a fellow named Appleby, right-winger of the Hollisburg team, at the party, and he was sore because Blanche and I sat on the stairs and talked most of the time, but she said for me not to pay any attention to him for he was just an overgrown village lunk who was crazy about her and always making a nuisance of himself.

“He’s so devoted to me, I’m sorry for him sometimes,” she said, “but you know these small-town boys can be awfully tiresome.”

WHEN I TOLD Sally about it she just sniffed.

“Why don’t you write to Dorothy Dix?” said Sally. “Dear Miss Dix, I am a hockey referee with ears like a jackass and a nose that starts east but ends west, but I am considered handsome by two girls, one dark and one blonde and they are madly in love with me. What shall I do when I hit the next town and meet a redhead?”

“It’s no laughing matter,” I told her. “Here I am writing letters to Agatha and telling her I’m crazy about her, and so I am, in a way. I wouldn’t hurt her feelings for anything, but on the other hand I’m kind of goofy about Miss MacNish too—”

“Either one will certainly commit suicide if you break her heart. At least 1 would, I’m sure,” said Sally. “It’s a wonc'er you can sleep at nights.”

Maybe it seemed funny to Sally, but inside another week it was far from being funny to me. Because I began to lead what you might call a double life.

Blanche came down to the city to do some shopping, and by the time I took her out to dinner and a show and put her on the train for Hollisburg I knew I was daffy about her.

Then I was shunted up to Maple Falls to handle a game, and by the time I caught the train out after Agatha had brought me up to the house to meet her folks, Blanche didn’t count any more.

And so it went. If I could have made up my mind it wouldn’t have been so bad. But neither of them knew anything about the other and I didn’t want to say anything, and all the time I was afraid somebody would tell Agatha I had another girl in Hollisburg, or that some

Continued on page 38

Romance on Ice

Continued from page 17—Starts on page 16

lowlife would tell Blanche I had a girl in Maple Falls. Maybe sailors and commercial travellers have a lot of worries like that. 1 often thought that it’s no wonder bigamists so often give themselves up to the ix)lice. The strain must get them down.

I would say to myself, after kissing Blanche good-by after handling a game at Hollisburg oh, yes, we got along light well I would say to myself: “I’m a lowdown cur. There’s poor, trusting little Agatha over in Maple Falls, thinking she’s the only girl in my life, and here I’m really nuts about Blanche. I’ll write Agatha tomorrow and tell her the truth as man to man, let her down easy, and then I’ll ask Blanche to marry me next time I see her.” Then, sure as guns, I’d get a letter from Agatha next morning and the minute I would read it I’d say, “Well, I am certainly a big sap to think of throwing over an affectionate little doll like her.” And the next time I was sent up to handle a game at Maple Falls and I would see Agatha again, I would say to myself: “It is

certainly lucky I did not make a hasty decision for 1 would have regretted it for the rest of my life. Blanche is a fine girl, hut she has not got Agatha’s pep. The next time I see Blanche I will have to tell her there can never be anything between us because I love another. She will get over it in time.”

It was enough to send a man crazy. “There’ll be a hot time in the old town if both your girl friends show up at the same hockey game some night,” said Sally when I was telling her my troubles one day. “How are you going to handle that situation? Or has it entered your head?”

“I get gooseflesh whenever I think of it.” “You had better get your mind made up before it happens.”

“Maybe it won’t.”

But it did. Maple Falls and Hollisburg wound up the schedule tied for first place in the County League, and a play-off was ordered on neutral ice. That was the hot potato the association secretary dumped right in my lap.

“Darn!” said Sally. “That means another office subscription of a quarter apiece.”

“What for?” I wanted to know.

“Your wreath.”

That night comes a telegram from Blanche:

“Will be at game rooting for Hollisburg. Dying to see you again. Love and kisses.”

And next morning came a note from Agatha:

“Darling: I’m so glad you’re to

handle the big game. I was afraid they might send up some old crosspatch of a referee who wouldn’t be fair to our boys, but now I’m not worrying for we all think you’re the best referee we ever had. I’m going over to the game on the special train and I can hardly wait to see you once more. Don’t you dare be mean to our team, Mr. Man, or I’ll never speak to you again. Ha-ha! That’s only a joke, of course, because I know you have to be fair to both sides. Oh, I’m so excited.

A million kisses.”

Nice girls, both of them. But hockey fans.

I called up the secretary and told him I had a cold.

“Even pneumonia wouldn’t work,” he snapped. “What’s the matter with you? All season you’ve begged to handle those teams. You’re elected. Don’t tell me the natives have you scared.”

“Who, me?” I said.

“They’ll probably send you back on the

installment plan,” Sally remarked when I was leaving the office.

THE GAME was to be held in a burg called Wyatt, about halfway between Maple Falls and Hollisburg. I didn’t go by train. I drove up, and timed it very smartly to hit the place about ten minutes Ijefore game time. It looked like an election night. There were cars parked the whole length of Main Street and down all the side streets clear out into the country. An engine was steaming on the siding where a mob of Hollisburg fans had just piled out of a special train and was swarming toward the rink. The village cop had to clear a way for me to get to my dressing room.

I put on my skates, got the line-up and went out. A band was ripping into “Colonel Bogy” full blast. The rink was jammed to the roof and bulging at the sides, with about fifty kids dangling from the rafters. Horns and cowbells were drowning out the band. The Maple Falls crowd, all tagged with red and white ribbons, were on one side of the rink roaring insults at the Hollisburg gang with blue and gold ribbons. A drunk was capering about on the ice in front of the Maple Falls section. He was wearing a girl’s hat and trying to be a cheer leader.

“Mike! Oh, Mike!”

There was Agatha, waving a cardboard hooter, with about two yards of ribbon at her collar, and looking prettier than ever, I had to stop, of course, knowing blamed well that Blanche was probably sitting somewhere on the other side of the rink taking it all in.

“Hello, honey,” I said, not very cheerful. “Hello, you old darling,” gurgled Agatha, who seemed to be just bubbling with excitement. She leaned over and rumpled my hair. “I’ve bet five whole dollars on our team,” she whispered, “so don’t you dare let me lose my money.”

“I gotta call ’em as I see ’em,” I grinned. “See you after the game, maybe.”

I skated away, for the Hollisburg fans were all whooping now, and when I got over to the other side of the rink I looked for Blanche, not that I was particularly anxious to talk to her but 1 knew it would be good policy. She was looking pretty grim when I finally caught sight of her right beside the penalty box. Trust these pretty girls to get the best seats. I gave her a big smile and pulled up.

“I was looking around for you,” I said. “Who’s your girl friend?” snapped Blanche.

“Over there?” I said. “Oh, just some dame lelling me she’d bet all her money on Maple Falls.”

“I bet five dollars on Ilollisburg myself,” said Blanche, “and I’ll be real mad if I lose it.”

“I hope you don’t, sweetheart,” I said, “but I gotta call ’em as I see ’em, you know.”

“Why, of course, dear,” cooed Blanche. “I know you have to be fair. That’s why you’re such a good referee. But I’ll just die if our boys don’t win. You go and tell that hussy on the other side of the rink that she’s going to lose her money.”

WHATEVER happened, I knew I was going to be the most unpopular guy in the world with at least half that wildeyed mob by the time it was all over. My only hope was that the winning team would come out about five goals ahead so that there wouldn’t be any real argument. But after about a period of dingdong warfare between those two squads, I knew there wasn’t anything to choose between them.

Maple Falls would come down on the attack, go tearing across the blue line. If there was an offside and I called it, the

Maple Falls fans would lunge to their feet as if the benches had turned red hot beneath them, and roar, “Boo-o-o-o-o! Robber!”

A Hollisburg defense man would trip a Maple Falls forward and send him into a tailspin. The minute I waggled two fingers toward the penalty box all Hollisburg would threaten to come over the fence and tear me limb from limb. Naturally the only thing to do was forget all about the crowd, keep my mind on the game and keep the boys in hand. This wasn’t so easy, but by slapping on the penalties thick and fast in the first twenty minutes I showed them that I meant business.

In the second period Maple Falls banged in a goal, and the Hollisburg fans slumped down into a thick black fog. About two minutes later a Maple Falls forward clipped his check over the jaw with a butt-end that must have loosened a lot of teeth, so I benched him, and while the team was short-handed the Hollisburg team ganged in and tied the score.

A popularity contest just then would have shown me at the foot of the list in Maple Falls and leading by a big majority in Hollisburg. Most of the Maple Falls fans were yelling at me to stick around after the game and get my head knocked off. I stole a glance at Agatha, and the look she gave me made me feel like a fellow caught robbing the poor-box.

So there the score was tied, and it stayed that way, with the crowd going crazier and crazier.

“Well,” I said to myself, “it looks as if this is going to settle my hash with one or the other of those girls.”

But I didn’t know which one I wanted it to be. Hollisburg would go racing in and look to have a goal at the end of their sticks and I’d say, “Good-by, Agatha. But after all, Blanche has a better figure.”

And then they’d miss out and Maple Falls would come smashing back. The Hollisburg goalie would be sprawling outside his net and the puck would be lying loose in the crease and I’d say to myself,

“I guess this washes me up with Blanche. But Agatha is a better dancer anyhow.” And a Hollisburg player would bat the puck into the clear, leaving me all up in the air again.

So they battled away to the end of the second period, all the way down through the third, until there was less than a minute to go and it looked like overtime. Hollisburg came down on the attack. They swarmed in, fighting like fury for the tie-breaker. Maple Falls fought back. They fought back so hard that a Maple Falls defense man hauled off and pasted an opposition forward smack on the nose during a mix-up beside the net.

I blew the whistle and gave him the two fingers.

I couldn’t have made myself more unpopular with that Maple Falls mob if I had shot him. They simply raved. What they called me I don’t know. Everybody called me something different, none of it was meant to be complimentary and it was all loud. I didn't pay any attention, just snapped up the puck and faced off beside the Maple Falls net.

The Hollisburg centre snagged it on the draw.

He whipped it over to Appleby—the big lunk I had met at Blanche’s party. And Appleby let drive.

I never saw a puck fly faster. There was steam behind that shot. The old boot-heel was just a blur as it zipped toward the cage. I’m sure most of the crowd didn’t even see it from the moment it left Appleby’s stick until it hit the fence back of the net with a bang like a small cannon.

And right then and there I knew I was on the spot.

A disputed goal, of all things, at that time of all times !

THERE WAS a great screech of joy from Hollisburg and a howl of derision from Maple Falls. In about three seconds there was the makings of a fair-sized riot.

For the goal umpire didn’t switch on his light.

There was the puck lying behind the net. It had either glanced off the post or gone right through a hole in the twine, and one man’s guess was as good as another’s for it had been going like a bullet.

The players were crowding all around me. Fans were ganging around the goalumpire’s cage. Everybody was bellowing

and arguing. “It went in!......It didn’t!

......It glanced off the post......The

umpire is blind......It missed by a mile

.... It’s a goal, I tell you!”

I can’t say I weighed the matter pro and con, for you can’t fool around with your decisions in this racket, but I know that in the back of my head there was the knowledge that whatever I did, one of those girls was going to be all through with me forever. If I called it a goal, that washed me up with Agatha. If I didn’t, Blanche would think hanging was too good for me.

Which one did I pick?

Neither. I called it as I saw it. the way I always do. I knew I hadn’t heard the puck tick the goalpost. But I had seen it hit the fence and from the angle I knew it must have gone through the net. So I went over to the goal umpire.

“What’s the matter, buddy?” I said.

“It didn’t go in,” he growled.

“Sorry,” I told him. “Better turn on that light. I’m gonna overrule you.”

Then I turned and skated back to centre ice for the face-off, thinking to myself, “Blanche is more of a home-loving girl anyway. I don’t think Agatha and I would have got along.”

You never heard such an uproar as broke loose when I called that goal. Hollisburg went mad. Maple Falls went mad, too, but in a different way. By the time the game was over twenty seconds later, a steam calliope in full blast would have sounded like a whisper against the racket that was going on. I could scarcely hear the gong when the game was over and Hollisburg had won.

One of the Maple Falls players grabbed me.

“We was robbed !” he squawked. “That Wc*s no goal. Gave us the works, huh? You cheap crook!”

“Who’s a crook?” bellowed a Hollisburg forward. “You’re dern tootin’ it was a goal. Take that!”

And he socked the Maple Falls guy on the nose.

That started it.

In about two seconds both teams were wading into it, fists and sticks flying, and down over the boards swarmed Hollisburg fans and Maple Falls fans with arms swinging. I never saw so many separate fights going on all at once. Half a dozen Maple Falls maniacs tried to hang one on my eye, but I squeezed my way through the war in the general direction of the gate, figuring on finding Blanche and taking her home.

I found her.

She was dancing on the ice with her arms around Appleby, and at every jump she would plaster a kiss on his chin.

“We won ! We won ! We won !” she was shrieking. “Oh, Pete, darling! You were wonderful.”

And then she would kiss him again. And Appleby was kissing her right back. A touching little scene.

“Love me, sweets?” he mumbled.

“Pete, I’m mad about you! Need you ask?” And bang, he got another smack.

There was so much going on just then that nobody noticed—nobody but me. And I just gulped.

“Well, the double-crossing—” I muttered, when just then a big Maple Falls native spotted me and pounced on me with a howl. “You robbed us!” he roared, and swung.

“Oh, yeah?” said I, and ducked. I was glad he came along. It took my mind off Blanche. I poked him square on the jaw. Down he went. And immediately about a dozen roaring Maple Falls natives swooped down on me bellowing for revenge, led by a wild-eyed girl with her hat over one eye

and whooping, "Scratch his eyes out, the crook !”

You are quite correct. It was Agatha!

T DIDN’T HAVE much trouble getting to my dressing room, for a gang of Hollisburg warriors surged down and battled for me. but when 1 got there I locked the door and slumped onto a bench.

I wasn’t surprised at Agatha, although she was even more hostile than I ever thought a girl could beeven a hockey bug. But seeing Blanche hugging and kissing that fellow Appleby was like getting kicked in the stomach by a mule. I took off my skates, let them clump to the floor, and sat there with my elbows on my knees, staring at the wall. Outside in the corridor the riot was still going on. with once in a while somebody coming crash against the door and whooping, “How much did they pay you, Jesse James? Wait until we catch you.” And somebody else would say. "He’s an honest referee. And how would you like to catch this right now?" And there would be the sound of somebody getting a sock on the schnozzle.

"A pair of two-faced, lying, doublecrossing dames!" I muttered. “I’ll bet they were just playing up to me all the time, figuring I’d give their team a break.” It isn’t pleasant to know you’ve been a sucker. I was feeling very low.

A door at the side of the dressing room opened. I'grabbed up one of my boots and got ready to let fly if it was some Maple Falls sorehead wanting to interview with me.

"Scram!” I snarled. “Scram before you get your head knocked off.”

“A fine way to welcome a pal.” snapped Sally and stepped into the dressing room.

T LOOKED at her.

■*■ "How did you get here?” I said, finally.

"That isn’t the question.” she remarked. "The question is—how are you going to get out of here? There’ll be a fair-sized riot start all over again if you show your nose outside.”

“So what?”

"It will save trouble all around.” said Sally, -“if you just slip out through this back way with me. I have my brother’s coupé at the back of the rink and I know a swell way out.”

"How do you know so much about this rink?”

“Heck. I skated here every winter until I was sixteen. Come on. get your boots on before some of those Maple Falls nitwits get in here and make hamburger out of you.”

“You skated here—is this your home town, Sally?” I said.

"I don’t go around telling everybody, but if you’re sure it won’t go any farther, it is.”

“But what’s the big idea? Why did you come here tonight?”

"Oh,” shrugged Sally, “I was covering a girls’ hockey final near here in the afternoon, and then I thought it would be nice to run over home, and the folks were all going to the hockey match so I came along and -and...”

And then I’ll be hanged if I didn’t notice that Sally was shivering. Her lips trembled and suddenly she leaned against the wall and whispered, "Oh. MikeI’m such a fool. I—I thought that crowd was going to hurt you—I was so scared...”

This was the girl I thought was hardboiled. I got up and in another second she was sniffling against my shoulder.

"So you came to help me make a getaway,” I said, but I didn’t grin. After all, neither of those other girls would have raised a finger to save me from a lynching bee. "Aw, they wouldn’t have hurt me— much. Crowds just haven’t any sense. Especially hockey crowds.”

Then I kissed her.

Sally tried to break away.

"The idea !” she snapped. “You—a man with two girls—”

“One girl.” I said, and kissed her again. This time she didn’t give me an argument. A referee’s decision is final. It says so in the rule book.