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Left Guard Gilbert by Ralph Henry Barbour

Robey paid no attention to him

To his surprise--and rather to his disgust--he found himself intensely hungry at breakfast and it was all he could do to refuse the steak and baked potato set before him. Under the appraising eye of Mr. Robey, he drank a glass of milk and nibbled at a piece of toast, his very soul longing for that steak and a couple of soft eggs! Afterward, when he reported to Danny, the trainer produced fresh discouragement in him.

"Fine, me boy!" declared the trainer. "You're as good as ever, aren't you? Keep in the air all you can and go light with the dinner."

"I--I don't feel very fit," muttered Don.

"Get along with you! You're the picture of health! Don't be saying anything like that to Mr. Robey, or he might believe it and bench you. Run along now and mind what I tell you. Game's at two-fifteen today."

It was fortunate that Don had but two recitations that morning, for he was in no condition for such unimportant things. His mind was too full of what was before him. At dinner it was easy enough to obey Danny's command and eat lightly, for he was far too worried to want food. The noon meal was eaten early in order that the players might have an hour for digestion before they went to the field. Chambers came swinging up to the school at half-past one, in all the carriages to be found at the station, while her supporters trailed after on foot. The stands filled early and, by the time the Chambers warriors trotted on to the gridiron for their practice, looked gay and colourful with waving pennants.

Don kept close to Tim from the time dinner was over until they reached the locker-room in the gymnasium. Tim was puzzled and disgusted over his chum's behaviour and secretly began to think that perhaps, after all, he was not in the condition his appearance told him to be. Don listlessly dragged his playing togs on and was dressed by the time Coach Robey came in. He hoped that the coach would give him his opportunity then to declare his unfitness for work, but Mr. Robey paid no attention to him. He said the usual few words of admonition to the players, conferred with Manager Morton and the trainer and disappeared again. Captain Edwards led the way out of the building at a few minutes before two and they jogged down to the field and, heralded by a long cheer from the stand, took their places on the benches. It was a fine day for football, bright and windless and with a true November nip in the air.

Chambers yielded half the gridiron and Coach Robey approached the bench. "All right, first and second squads," he said cheerfully. "Try your signals out, but take it easy. Rollins, you'd better try a half-dozen goals. Martin, too. How about you, Gilbert? You feeling all right?"

Don felt the colour seeping out of his cheeks as the coach turned toward him, and there was an instant of silence before he replied with lowered eyes.

"N-no, sir, I'm not feeling very--very fit. I'm sorry."

"You're not?" Mr. Robey's voice had an edge. "Danny says you're perfectly fit. What's wrong?"

"I--I don't know, sir. I don't feel--well."

A number of the players still within hearing turned to listen. Mr. Robey viewed Don with a puzzled frown. Then he shrugged impatiently.

"You know best, of course," he said shortly, "but if you don't work today, Gilbert, you're plumb out of it. I can't keep your place open for you forever, you know. What do you say? Want to try it?"

Don wished that the earth under his feet would open up and swallow him. He tried to return the coach's gaze, but his eyes wandered. The first time he tried to speak he made no sound, and when he did find his voice it was so low that the coach impatiently bade him speak up.

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