No Holding by Ralph Henry Barbour
The captain, the head coach and the trainer
of the Hillton Academy football team sat about
the table in the head coach’s room. It was
the evening of November 27th, and on the morrow,
Thanksgiving day, the wearers of the
crimson were to meet on the gridiron their
old-time rivals of St. Eustace Academy, in the
final and most important contest of the year.
The drop-light illumined three thoughtful
faces. Bob Syddington, captain, a broad-shouldered
and fine-looking lad of eighteen,
traced figures on the green-leather table-covering
and scowled intently. Gardiner, the head
coach, a man of thirty, wrote on a sheet of
paper with a scratching pen. The trainer
and the school’s physical director, Mr. Beck,
leaned back in his chair, his eyes from behind
the gold-rimmed glasses fixed speculatively
upon Syddington. Gardiner looked up.
“Cantrell at left half, of course?”
“He won’t last the game,” said the trainer,
“but he’s good for the first half.”
The coach’s pen scratched again. Syddington
scowled more darkly and his hand
trembled a little over the leather.
“How about right half?” Gardiner
glanced fleetingly at the captain and then,
questioningly, at the trainer. The latter
spoke after a moment:
“Well, Lane’s first choice, isn’t he?”
“To my mind, yes,” answered Gardiner,
“but Syddington thinks Servis should start
the game; that while he’s not so brilliant as
Lane, he’s more steady. I don’t share Syddington’s
distrust of Lane, but if he thinks
he’s going to feel that he has better support
behind him, I’m willing to hold Lane out until
“Then there’s Lane’s knee,” said Syddington,
without looking up.
“The knee’s all right,” said Beck, decisively.
“Physically Lane’s in as good
shape as he was before the injury.”
“Ye-es, but Servis has never been hurt,”
answered Syddington. “Seems to me that
makes him less liable to injury now.”
His face was pale and there were little
stubborn creases about the mouth. The
trainer opened his lips as if to reply, but
closed them again. Gardiner examined his
pen and waited. Restraint was in the air.
“I think we’d better start with Servis,”
said Syddington, after a moment. He heaved
a sigh of relief and shot a glance at Beck.
The latter’s face wore an expression of
disappointment, which disappeared under the
lad’s scrutiny, but which, nevertheless, caused
Syddington to transfer his gaze to the table
and sent a flush to his cheeks.
Gardiner wrote for a moment. “That
leaves only full-back, and Hale’s our man
there. And that finishes the line-up. I’ll
read it over.”
Then he and Beck discussed once more the
plan of the battle.
Bob Syddington heard nothing. He was
fighting a battle of his own, and his thoughts
were far from pleasant. To do a dishonorable
act knowingly, deliberately, is in itself
disagreeable enough to a boy who has all his
life hated mean actions. But to know that
two persons in whose eyes one particularly
wants to appear clean and honorable are
aware of the act adds greater bitterness.
Syddington entertained no illusions. He
knew that when he had caused Servis’s name
to be placed in the line-up instead of Lane’s
he had done a dishonorable thing. And he
knew that both the head coach and the trainer
were equally aware of the fact, and that he
had fallen far in their estimation; that henceforth
they must hold him, at the best, in pitying
contempt. A monstrous price, he told
himself bitterly, to pay for next year’s captaincy!
And he was not only injuring himself, but
by deposing Lane he was placing in jeopardy
the team’s success in the “big game.” There
was never a doubt but that Lane was the man
for the position of right half-back. Without
exception he was the most brilliant player at
Hillton. He had won the game with Shrewsburg
by a sixty-yard run for a touch-down.
More than once in minor games he had brought
the spectators to their feet by his daring running
or hurdling. It was almost a certainty
that if he went into the St. Eustace game he
would do just what the school expected, and
by brilliant playing become the hero of the
year. And there lay the rub.
Only the day before, Carter, the right
tackle, had warned him: “If there was an
election now, Bob, we’d make you captain
again by a majority of one or two. But if
Lane goes in and does his usual spectacular
stunt, he’ll be the next captain as sure as fate.
Take my advice and keep him out somehow.
You’ve got Servis and Jackson, and—well,
don’t be an ass!” And Syddington had
shaken his head and answered righteously,
“I can’t do that, Tom.”
And now he had done it!
He clenched his hands under the table and
hated himself with an intensity that hurt.
Gardiner and the trainer talked on. The
clock on the mantel ticked monotonously.
It was not as if Lane would make a poor
captain. On the contrary, Syddington knew
that he would prove a good one. That the
captain did not altogether like him, Lane
knew. He had said a few days before—it
had never been meant for Syddington’s ears,
but nevertheless had reached them—“I’ll
never get into the St. Eustace game until
every other back is in the hospital. Syddington’s
no fool!” And now Syddington hated
Lane more than ever because he had rightly
judged him capable of dishonesty.
And Lane would know, and Gardiner and
Beck and Carter; and the fellows would suspect.
But—and that was the worst of all—he
himself could never forget. The clock
struck the half-hour, and Gardiner looked up.
“Half after nine! This won’t do. We
must get to bed. Don’t bother about to-morrow,
Syddington. Get your mind off the
game and go to sleep. It’ll be all right.”
Syddington rose and took up his overcoat.
After he had struggled slowly into it he faced
the others as if about to speak, but instead
walked to the door in silence.
“Good night!” said Gardiner.
“Good night, Syddington!” echoed Beck.
The boy thought he could already detect
a different tone in their voices, a foretaste of
that contempt with which in future they were
to consider him.
“Good night; good night, sir!” he answered,
miserably. Then, with the door opening
under his hand, he turned, his face pale
but resolute, with something that was almost
a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
“Mr. Gardiner, I wish you’d change that
“Of course, if there’s anything——”
“I’d like Lane to go in at right half
instead of Servis. Thank you, sir. Good
When the door had closed coach and trainer
faced each other smilingly.
“I didn’t think he could do it,” said Beck.
“Nor did I,” answered Gardiner. “And
The autumn sunlight had disappeared
slowly from the field of battle, and the first
shadows of evening grew and deepened along
the fences. The second half of the game was
well-nigh over, and the score-board told the
Hillton 6 Opponents 8
3 Down 4 Yds to Gain
7 Minutes to Play
Over on the Hillton sections of the stand
the cheering was hoarse and incessant, and
crimson banners waved ceaselessly. It has
ever been Hillton’s way to shout loudest under
the shadow of defeat.
Hillton’s one score had been secured in the
first three minutes of play. Quick, steady
tackle-back plunges had carried the ball from
the center of the gridiron to St. Eustace’s six-yard
line before the latter team had awakened
to its danger. From there Cantrell had
skirted the Blue’s right end and Hale, the
Hillton full-back, had kicked an easy goal.
But St. Eustace had pulled herself together,
and from that time on had things her
own way, forcing her rival to abandon offense
and use every effort to protect her constantly
threatened goal. Yet it was not until the half
was almost over that St. Eustace finally managed
to score, pushing her full-back through
for a touch-down and afterward kicking goal.
The second half had started with honors
even, but on his five-yard line Hale had failed
miserably at a kick, and had been borne back
for a safety. And now, with but seven minutes
left, with the ball on Hillton’s fifty-yard
line and four yards to gain on the third down,
the Crimson was fighting valiantly against
Syddington, pale and panting, measured
the distance to the St. Eustace goal with his
eyes and groaned. If only Lane or Sanford,
who had taken Cantrell’s place, could be got
away round an end! If only they could get
within kicking distance of that cross-bar!
Lane was hurdling the line at right guard.
Syddington dashed into the mêlée, shoving,
shouting hoarsely. The blue line gave and
Lane fell through, squirming, kicking. The
Hillton stand went wild with joy. The score-board
proclaimed first down.
“Get up! Get up!” called Syddington,
a sudden note of hope in his strained voice.
“That’s the stuff! We can do it again!
Hard, fellows, hard!”
Aching, dizzy, but happy, nevertheless, red-faced
and perspiring, Carl Lane dropped the
ball and trotted back to his position.
“Signal!” cried Colton. “27—34—”
Lane crept, crouching, back of Sanford.
He dashed forward in the wake of the other
half, the ball thumped against his stomach,
was clasped firmly, and the next instant he
was high in air. Arms thrust him back, others
shoved him forward. For an instant the result
was doubtful; then the St. Eustace players
gave, the straining group went back, slowly
at first, then faster. Lane, kicking friend and
foe impartially in his efforts to thrust himself
forward, felt himself falling head foremost.
Some one’s elbow crashed against his temple,
and for a moment all was dark.
When he came to, his face was dripping
from the sponge and his head ached as if it
would burst; but the score-board once more
proclaimed first down, and the crimson-decked
section of the grand stand had gone suddenly
crazy. His name floated across to him at the
end of a mighty volume of cheers.
He picked himself up, shook himself like
a dog emerging from water, grinned cheerfully
at Carter, and sped back of the line.
Syddington, his blue eyes sparkling with newborn
hope, thumped him on the shoulder as
They were past the middle of the field now,
and once more Lane struck the blue-stockinged
right guard for a gain. St. Eustace was yielding.
Hillton was again on the offensive.
From the fifty yards to the thirty-two went
the conquering Crimson, Lane, Sanford and
Hale hurdling, plunging, squirming between
tackle and tackle. St. Eustace’s center trio
were weak, battered, almost helpless.
Syddington gazed longingly at the farthest
white line, now well in view. If only Lane
could skirt the end! There was no longer
any thought of rivalry in his heart. If Lane
could make a touch-down and save them from
defeat, he might have the captaincy and welcome.
The St. Eustace quarter called for time.
The battered center and right guard were
taken out and their places filled with new
men. The timekeeper approached, watch in
“Two minutes more,” he announced.
Syddington’s heart sank; the panting players
reeled before his eyes, and he grasped Carter’s
shoulder to steady himself. Only two
minutes! And success almost within grasp!
He turned swiftly to Colton.
“Two minutes, Dan! Did you hear?
There isn’t time to work it down. Try the
ends; give it to Lane! We’ve got to score,
Dan!” He thumped his clenched hands
against his padded thighs and stared miserably
about him. Colton patted him on the
“Cheer up, Bob,” he whispered—his
voice was now such that he could only whisper
or shout—“cheer up! We’ll make it. Two
minutes is time enough to win in!” The
whistle sounded again.
“Right tackle—back!” cried the quarter.
Carter dropped out of the line.
A tandem play on left guard netted two
yards; the new center was a good man. Syddington’s
heart was leaping into his throat
and thumping back again painfully. He
clenched his hands, watched his man with
every nerve and muscle tense, and awaited
the next signal. Would it never come?
What was the matter with Colton? Did he
not know he was losing——
“Sig—” began the quarter; then his voice
gave out in a husky whisper. “Signal!” he
“Block hard!” shouted Syddington.
“Watch out for fake!” shrieked the St.
The Blue’s right half ran back to join the
quarter up the field. Hale, the Crimson’s full-back,
stood with outstretched hands on the
thirty-six-yard line, with Lane and Sanford
guarding him. Syddington swung his arms
and crouched as if on edge to get down under
the punt, yet out of the corners of his eyes he
was watching the St. Eustace left tackle as a
cat watches a mouse.
“44—22—11—6!” gasped Colton.
Center passed the ball back straight and
clean to Hale, and the latter sped it on at a
short side pass to Lane, who had dropped
back; Sanford dashed at the right end of the
line, and Lane, the pigskin hugged close and
his right arm rigid before him, fell in behind.
Sanford sent the St. Eustace end reeling backward,
and Syddington put the Blue’s full-back
out of the play and went crashing to the
ground with him. Sanford and Lane swept
through outside of tackle and sped toward
Crimson banners waved and danced. The
game was lost or won in the next few seconds.
Victory for Hillton, defeat for her rival, lay
in the crossing of those eight trampled white
lines by the lad who, with straining limbs and
heaving chest, sped on behind his interference.
Sanford, lithe and fleet, held a straight
course for the right-hand goal-post. Ahead,
with staring eyes and desperate faces, the St.
Eustace quarter and right half advanced menacingly.
Behind, pounding footsteps told of
Then the quarter-back was upon them,
face pale and set, arms outstretched, and Lane
swung to the right. Sanford’s shoulder met
the foe, and the two went to earth together,
Sanford on top. He was up again in the instant,
and, unharmed, once more running
fleetly. But Lane was ahead now, and before
him, near the ten-yard line, the blue-clad half-back
was waiting. The man ahead stood for
defeat, for Lane doubted his ability to get
round him. Even running was agony, and
dodging seemed out of the question. But just
as hope deserted him Sanford came into sight
“Faster!” he panted. “To the right.”
Lane had no time to make his lagging
limbs obey ere Sanford and the foe were piled
together at his feet. He plunged blindly over
the writhing heap, stumbled, fell on one knee,
staggered up again, saw the yellowish turf
rising and sinking before him, felt his knees
doubling up beneath him, fell, rolled over
twice, crawled and wriggled on knees and
elbows from force of habit, and then closed
his eyes, laid his head on his arm and was
Syddington sped down the field with the
roar of three thousand voices in his ears, and
a great, almost sickening happiness at his
Hillton had won!
For the moment thought refused to go
beyond that wonderful fact. His team, the
boys whom he had threatened, coaxed, driven,
struggled with for months, had beaten St.
He thrust his way through the little group
and dropped to his knees. Lane opened his
eyes and for an instant stared blankly into
his face. Then recollection returned and he
raised his head. Above him rose the goal-posts.
He grinned happily.
“Over, eh, Syddington?” he asked,
“Yes, Lane, over. Are you all right?”
“Yes; a bit tuckered, that’s all. Let me
They helped him to his feet, and he
stretched his aching muscles cautiously. Beck
handed him his head harness, and he turned
and limped off. The cheering, which had almost
subsided for want of breath, took on new
vigor, and he went up the field to the wild
refrain of “Lane! Lane! Lane!”
Hale kicked goal and the teams lined up
for the kick-off once more. But when the ball
had fallen into the arms of the Hillton left
end the whistle shrilled and the battle was at
an end. The score-board said:
Hillton 12. Opponents 8.
The crowds were over the ropes on the instant,
and while the wearied crimson players
were hoarsely cheering their defeated rivals,
they were seized and borne off to where the
band was playing Hilltonians. Then the
procession round the field began. And when
it had formed, Carl Lane, left half-back, borne
upon the shoulders of four stalwart, shrieking
friends, was at the head. And Syddington,
almost at the end of the line of swaying
heroes, saw, and was more than content.
“They’ll make him captain the day after
to-morrow,” he said to himself, “and I’m
And with the band playing as it had not
played for two years, with every voice raised
in song, Hillton marched triumphantly back
to the campus.
It was the evening of the day following
Hillton’s victory. The songs and cheering
were over, and the big bonfire was only a
mound of ashes. Syddington had lighted a
fire in the study grate, for an east wind was
sweeping across the Hudson and rattling the
It was all over! The boys had broken
training, the field was left to the pranks of
the winter winds, canvas jackets and padded
trousers were put away, and the football season
was at an end. Well, it had been a successful
one, and next year——
His hands dropped and he sat upright,
staring blankly before him. He had forgotten.
Next year meant little to him now.
Lane had earned the captaincy twice over.
If it must go to some one other than himself,
he was glad that Carl Lane was to be that
person. He would nominate Lane himself.
He began to fashion a little speech in his
mind; and when he was in the middle of it,
there came a knock at the door and Lane entered.
Syddington stared a moment in surprise.
“How are you, Lane? Glad to see you,”
he said, finally. “I—I was just thinking
about you when you knocked. Sit down,
“Thanks.” Lane tossed his cap on the
table and drew a chair toward the hearth.
“Cold, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Syddington went back to the
armchair and wondered what the visit meant.
Lane had not the air of a casual caller; his
face was serious and held a suggestion of embarrassment.
There was a moment’s silence;
then Lane went on in a tone of frank sincerity:
“Look here, Syddington. The fellows
are talking about the captaincy.” He was
watching Syddington closely. “And I find
that I can have every vote but four.”
“I don’t know who the four are,” answered
Syddington, bravely, “but if I’m one
of them you can count me out. I’m going to
vote for you, and if you’ll let me, I’ll put your
“Thank you. I didn’t expect that. I
fancied you’d want it yourself.”
“So I do. So does every fellow, I guess.
But you’ve won it, Lane, fair and square, and
I don’t begrudge it to you. I’ll acknowledge
that I did at first, but after you won the
“You mean that you knew before the game
that I might get the captaincy?” Lane’s
voice was full of wonder.
“Yes. Carter told me.”
“And you let me play?”
“Yes, although—” he faltered—“although
I came near not.”
“I see. And I owe you an apology. I
didn’t think you’d let me on, and I said so.
I think it was a mighty plucky thing to do,
mighty plucky, Syddington, and—and awfully
decent. And now, look here. What I came
here to say was just this.” He rose and took
his cap from the table. “I can have the
captaincy to-morrow, perhaps, but of course
I’m not going to accept it.”
“Not going to—to——”
“Would you take it if you were in my
place? If I had given you the chance to win
the big game, knowing that if you did you’d
get the captaincy; if you knew I’d set my
heart on keeping it; if I’d slaved all fall to
turn out the finest team Hillton’s had in
“But that has nothing to do with it,”
faltered the other.
“Yes, it has everything to do with it,”
said Lane, earnestly. “It’s a matter of fair
play—and no holding. If I took that captaincy
after what you’ve done I’d detest myself.”
“But—but it doesn’t seem right.”
“It is, though. You’re a captain from
head to heels, and I’m not. And—I guess
that’s all.” He moved toward the door. Syddington
followed with pale face.
“I—I don’t know how I can thank you,
Lane, honestly! If you change your
“I sha’n’t. And as for thanks—I think
we’re quits. Good night!”
“Good night!” replied Syddington.
“I—” he faltered and the color flooded into
his cheeks—“I—I want to shake hands with