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Left Guard Gilbert by Ralph Henry Barbour

Robey suddenly leaned forward and laid a hand on Don's knee


Don's

gaze sought the floor and he shook his head. "I'd rather not, sir, if you don't mind," he muttered.

"But I do mind. The team needs you, Gilbert! And now that I know that you didn't quit because you were _afraid_----"

"I did, though!" Don looked up desperately. "That was the truth of it!"

Mr. Robey sighed deeply. "Gilbert," he said patiently, "if I couldn't lie better than you can I wouldn't try it! You weren't afraid and you aren't afraid and you know it and I know it! So, then, is it Walton?"

After a moment Don nodded silently.

"You think he's a better man than you are, eh?"

Don nodded again, but hesitatingly.

"Or you've taken pity on him and want him to play against Claflin, perhaps."

"Yes, sir. You see, his folks are going to be here and they'll expect him to play!"

"Oh, I see. You and Walton come from the same town? But of course you don't. How did you know his folks were coming, then?"

"He told me."

"When?"

"About--some time last week."

"Was it the day you had that talk about the position and which of you was to have it?"

style="text-align: justify;">"I guess so. Yes, sir, it was that time."

"And he, perhaps, suggested that it would be a nice idea for you to back out and let him in, eh?"

Don was silent.

"Did he?" insisted the coach.

"He said that his folks were coming----"

"And that he'd like to get into the game so they wouldn't be disappointed?"

"Something like that," murmured Don.

"And you consented?"

"Not exactly, but I thought it over and--and----"

Mr. Robey suddenly leaned forward and laid a hand on Don's knee.

"Gilbert," he asked quietly, "_what has Walton got on you_?"

CHAPTER XXIV

"ALL READY, BRIMFIELD?"

THOSE who braved a chill east wind and went out that afternoon to watch practice enjoyed a sensation, for when the first team came trotting over from the gymnasium, a half-hour later because of a rigorous signal quiz, amongst them, dressed to play, was Don Gilbert! A buzz of surprise and conjecture travelled through the ranks of the shivering onlookers, that speedily gave place to satisfaction, and as Don, tossing aside his blanket, followed the first-string players into the field a small and enthusiastic First Form youth clapped approvingly, others took it up and in a moment the applause crackled along the side line.

"That's for you," whispered Tim to Don. "Lift off your head-guard!"

But Don glanced alarmedly toward the fringe of spectators and hid as best he could behind Thursby! Practice went with a new vim today. Doubtless the return of Don heartened the team, for one thing, and then there was a snap of winter in the air that urged to action. The second was as nearly torn to tatters this afternoon as it had ever been, and the first scored twice in each of the two fifteen-minute periods. "Boutelle's Babies" were a lame and tired aggregation when the final whistle blew!


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