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Left Guard Gilbert by Ralph Henry Barbour

Moller bowed gravely and sat down


Moller, his face extremely red, watched without word or motion. The rest of the class, their countenances too showing an unnatural ruddiness, likewise maintained silence and immobility until the last of the nine had shuffled his feet into place. Then there burst upon the stillness a snigger which, faint as it was, sounded startlingly loud. Whereupon pent up emotions broke loose and a burst of laughter went up that shook the windows.

It seemed for a minute that that laughter would never stop. Fellows rolled in their seats and beat futilely on the arms of their chairs, gasping for breath and sobriety. And through it all Mr. Moller stared in a sort of dazed amazement. And then, when the laughter had somewhat abated, he arose, one hand on the desk and the other agitatedly fingering his black ribbon, and the colour poured out of his cheeks, leaving them strangely pallid. And Amy, furtively studying him, knew that Clint had been right, that Mr. Moller couldn't take a joke, or, in any event, had no intention of taking this one. Amy wasn't frightened for himself, in fact he wasn't frightened at all, but he did experience a twinge of regret for the others whom he had led into the affair. Then Mr. Moller was speaking and Amy forgot regrets and listened.

"I am going to give you young gentlemen"--was it imagination on Amy's part or had the instructor placed the least bit of emphasis on the last word--"two minutes more in

which to recover from your merriment. At the end of that time I shall expect you to be quiet and orderly and ready to begin this recitation." He drew his watch from his pocket and laid it on the desk. "So that you may enjoy this--this brilliant jest to the full, I'll ask the nine young gentleman in the front rows to stand up and face you. If you please, Hall, Stearns, Draper, Fanning, Byrd----"

It was several seconds before this request was responded to. Then Amy arose and, one by one, the others followed and faced the room. Amy managed to retain his expression of calm innocence, but the others were ill at ease and many faces looked very sheepish.

"Now, then," announced Mr. Moller quietly. "Begin, please. You have two minutes."

A dismal silence ensued, a silence broken at intervals by a nervous cough or the embarrassed shuffling of feet. Mr. Moller calmly divided his attention between the class and the watch. Surely never had one hundred and twenty seconds ticked themselves away so slowly. There was a noticeable disinclination on the part of the students to meet the gaze of the instructor, nor did they seem any more eager to view the various and generally painful emotions expressed on the countenances of the nine. At last Mr. Moller took up his watch and returned it with its dangling fob to his pocket, and as he did so some thirty sighs of relief sounded in the stillness.

"Time's up," announced the instructor. "Be seated, young gentlemen. Thank you very much." The nine sank gratefully into their chairs. "I am sure that we have all enjoyed your joke vastly. You must pardon me if, just at first, I seemed to miss the humour of it. I can assure you that I am now quite--quite _sympathique_. We are told that imitation is the sincerest flattery, and I accept the compliment in the spirit in which you have tendered it. Again I thank you."

Mr. Moller bowed gravely and sat down.

Glances, furtive and incredulous, passed from boy to boy. Amy heaved a sigh of relief. After all, then, Mr. Moller could take a joke! And for the first time since the inception of the brilliant idea Amy felt an emotion very much like regret! And then the recitation began.

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