Standing in the bow of the launch, Dr. Nicholls, coach of the Baliol
crew, leaned upon his megaphone, his eyes fixed upon two eight-oared
crews resting upon their oars a hundred feet away. From his hand
dangled a stop-watch. The two crews had just completed a four-mile race
against the watch.
A grim light came into the deeply set gray eyes of Jim Deacon as the
coach put the watch into his pocket. Deacon was the stroke of the
second varsity, an outfit which in aquatics bears the same relation to
a university eight as the scrub team does to a varsity football eleven.
But in the race just completed the second varsity had been much of a
factor—surprisingly, dishearteningly so. Nip and tuck it had been, the
varsity straining to drop the rival boat astern, but unable to do so.
At the finish not a quarter of a length, not fifteen feet, had
separated the two prows; a poor showing for the varsity to have made
with the great rowing classic of the season coming on apace—a poor
showing, that is, assuming the time consumed in the four-mile trip was
not especially low.
Only the coach could really know whether the time was satisfactory
or not. But Jim Deacon suspected that it was poor, his idea being based
upon knowledge he had concerning the capabilities of his own crew; in
other words, he knew it was only an average second varsity outfit. The
coach knew it too. That was the reason his jaws were set, his eyes
vacant. At length he shook his head.
“Not good, boys—not good.” His voice was gentle, though usually he
was a rip-roaring mentor. “Varsity, you weren't rowing. That's the
answer—not rowing together. What's the matter, eh?”
“I thought, Dr. Nicholls, that the rhythm was very good——”
The coach interrupted Rollins, the captain, with a gesture.
“Oh, rhythm! Yes, you row prettily enough. You look well. I should
hope so, at this time of the season. But you're not shoving the boat
fast; you don't pick up and get her moving. You're leaking power
somewhere; as a matter of fact, I suspect you're not putting the power
in. I know you're not. Ashburton, didn't that lowering of your seat fix
you? Well, then,”—as the young man nodded affirmatively— “how about
your stretcher, Innis? Does it suit you now?”
As Innis nodded, signifying that it did, Deacon saw the coach's eyes
turn to Doane, who sat at stroke of the varsity.
“Now,” muttered the stroke of the second varsity, his eyes gleaming,
“we'll hear something.”
“Doane, is there anything the trouble with you? You're feeling well,
“Yes sir. Sure!” The boy flushed. Tall, straight, handsome he sat in
the boat, fingering the oar-handle nervously. In appearance he was the
ideal oarsman. And yet——
Deacon, watching the coach, could almost see his mind working. Now
the time had come, the issue clearly defined. Another stroke must be
tried and found not wanting, else the annual eight-oared rowing classic
between those ancient universities Baliol and Shelburne would be
decided before it was rowed.
Deacon flushed as the coach's glittering eyeglasses turned toward
him. It was the big moment of the senior's four years at college. Four
years! And six months of each of those years a galley-slave—on the
machines in the rowing-room of the gymnasium, on the ice-infested river
with the cutting winds of March sweeping free; then the more genial
months with the voice of coach or assistant coach lashing him. Four
years of dogged, unremitting toil with never the reward of a varsity
seat, and now with the great regatta less than a week away, the big
moment, the crown of all he had done.
Words seemed on the verge of the coach's lips. Deacon's eyes
strained upon them as he sat stiffly in his seat. But no words came;
the coach turned away.
“All right,” he said spiritlessly. “Paddle back to the float.”
The coxswains barked their orders; sixteen oars rattled in their
locks; the glistening shells moved slowly homeward.
Tingling from his plunge in the river, Jim Deacon walked up the
bluff from the boathouse to the group of cottages which constituted
Baliol's rowing-quarters. Some of the freshman crew were playing indoor
baseball on the lawn under the gnarled trees, and their shouts and
laughter echoed over the river. Deacon stood watching them. His face
was of the roughhewn type, in his two upper-class years his heavy frame
had taken on a vast amount of brawn and muscle. Now his neck was meet
for his head and for his chest and shoulders; long, slightly bowed
limbs filled out a picture of perfect physique.
No one had known him really well in college. He was working his way
through. Besides, he was a student in one of the highly scientific
engineering courses which demanded a great deal of steady application.
With no great aptitude for football—he was a bit slow-footed—with
little tune or inclination for social activities, he had concentrated
upon rowing, not only as a diversion from his arduous studies, an
ordered outlet for physical energy, but with the idea of going out into
the world with that hallmark of a Baliol varsity oar which he had heard
and believed was likely to stand him in stead in life. Baliol alumni,
which include so many men of wealth and power, had a habit of not
overlooking young graduates who have brought fame to their alma mater.
As Deacon stood watching the freshmen at play, Dick Rollins, the
crew captain, came up.
“They sent down the time-trial results from the Shelburne quarters,
Never in his life had one of the great men of the university spoken
that many words, or half as many, to Jim Deacon, who stared at the
“The time—oh, yes; I see.”
“They did twenty minutes, thirty seconds.”
“Well,” he said at length, “you didn't get the boat moving much
to-day.” He wanted to say more, but could think of nothing. Words came
rather hard with him.
“You nearly lugged the second shell ahead of us to-day, hang you.”
“No use letting a patient die because he doesn't know he's sick.”
“Yes, we were sick. Doc Nicholls knows a sick crew when he sees one.
He—he thinks you're the needed tonic, Deacon.”
“He told me you were to sit in at stroke in Junior Doane's place
to-morrow. I'd been pulling for the change the past few days. Now he
“You were pulling——But you're Doane's roommate.”
“Yes, it's tough. But Baliol first, you know.”
Deacon stared at the man. He wanted to say something but couldn't.
The captain smiled.
“Look here, Deacon; let's walk over toward the railroad a bit. I
want to talk to you.” Linking his arm through Deacon's, he set out
through the yard toward the quaint old road with its little cluster of
farm cottages and rolling stone-walled meadow-land bathed in the light
of the setting sun.
“Jim, old boy, you're a queer sort of a chap, and—and—the fact is,
the situation will be a bit ticklish. You know what it means for a
fellow to be thrown out of his seat just before a race upon which he
has been counting heart and soul.”
“I don't know. I can imagine.”
“You see, it's Doane. You know about his father——”
“I know all about his father,” was the reply.
“Eh?” Rollins stared at him, then smiled. “I suppose every rowing
man at Baliol does. But you don't know as much as I do. On the quiet,
he's the man who gave us the new boathouse last year. He's our best
spender. He was an old varsity oar himself.”
“Sure, I know.”
“That's the reason the situation is delicate. Frankly, Jim, Doc
Nicholls and the rest of us would have liked to see Junior Doane come
through. I think you get what I mean. He's a senior; he's my best
“He stroked the boat last year.”
“Yes, and Shelburne beat us. Naturally he wants to get back at that
“But he can't—not if he strokes the boat, Rollins. If you don't
know it, I'm telling you. If I thought different, I'd say so.” Deacon
abruptly paused after so long a speech.
“You don't have to tell me. I know it. We're not throwing a race to
Shelburne simply to please old Cephas Doane, naturally. I know what
you've got, Jim. So does Dr. Nicholls. You'll be in the varsity
to-morrow. But here's the point of what I've been trying to say; Junior
Doane hasn't been very decent to you—”
“Oh, he's been all right.”
“Yes, I know. But he's a funny fellow; not a bit of a snob—I don't
mean that, but—but—”
“You mean he hasn't paid much attention to me.” Deacon smiled
grimly. “Well, that's all right. As a matter of fact, I never really
have got to know him. Still, I haven't got to know many of the fellows.
Too busy. You haven't paid much attention to me, either; but I like
Rollins, whose father was a multimillionaire with family roots going
deep among the rocks of Manhattan Island, laughed.
“Bully for you! You won't mind my saying so, Jim, but I had it in my
mind to ask you to be a bit inconsequential—especially when Doane was
around—about your taking his place. But I guess it isn't necessary.”
“No,”—Deacon's voice was short—“it isn't.”
“Junior Doane, of course, will be hard hit. He'll be game. He'll try
to win back his seat. And he may; I warn you.”
“If he can win it back, I want him to.”
“Good enough!” The captain started to walk away, then turned back
with sudden interest. “By the way, Jim, I was looking through the
college catalogue this morning. You and Doane both come from
Philadelphia, don't you?”
“I asked Doane if he knew you there. Apparently not.”
“No, he didn't.” Deacon paused as though deliberating. Suddenly he
spoke. “I knew of him, though. You see, my father works in the bank of
which Mr. Doane is president.”
“Oh!” Rollins blinked. “I see.”
Deacon stepped forward, placing his hand upon the captain's arm.
“I don't know why I told you that. It isn't important at all. Don't
say anything to Doane, will you? Not that I care. It—it just isn't
“No. I get you, Jim. It isn't important.” He flung an arm over the
young man's shoulder. “Let's go back to dinner. That rotten time-row
has given me an appetite.”
There was that quiet in the Baliol dining room that evening which
one might expect to find after an unsatisfactory time-trial. Nations
might be falling, cities burning, important men dying; to these boys
such events would be as nothing in the face of the fact that the crew
of a traditional rival was to be met within the week—and that they
were not proving themselves equipped for the meeting.
“If any of you fellows wish to motor down to the Groton Hotel on the
Point for an hour or two, you may go,” said the coach, pushing back his
chair. He had begun to fear that his charges might be coming to too
fine a point of condition and had decided that the relaxation of a bit
of dancing might do no harm.
“Yeaa!” In an instant that subdued dining apartment was tumultuous
with vocal outcry, drawing to the doorway a crowd of curious freshmen
who were finishing dinner in their room.
“All right!” Dr. Nicholls grinned. “I gather all you varsity and
second varsity men want to go. I'll have the big launch ready at eight.
And—oh, Dick Rollins, don't forget; that boat leaves the hotel dock at
“Got you sir. Come on, fellows. Look out, you freshmen.” With a yell
and a dive the oarsmen went through the doors.
Deacon followed at a more leisurely gait with that faint gleam of
amusement in his eyes which was so characteristic. His first impulse
was not to go, but upon second thought he decided that he would. Jane
Bostwick was stopping at the Groton. Her father was a successful
promoter and very close to Cephas Doane, Sr., whose bank stood back of
most of his operations. Deacon had known her rather well in the days
when her father was not a successful promoter. In fact, the two had
been neighbours as boy and girl, had played together in front of a row
of prim brick houses. He had not seen her in recent years until the
previous afternoon, when as he was walking along the country road, she
had pulled up in her roadster.
“Don't pretend you don't remember me, Jim Deacon,” she had laughed
as the boy had stared at the stunning young woman.
Jim remembered her, all right. They talked as though so many
significant years had not elapsed. She was greatly interested,
“Do you know,” she said, “it never occurred to me that Deacon, the
Baliol rowing man, was none other than Jim Deacon. Silly of me, wasn't
it? But then I didn't even know you were in Baliol. I'm perfectly crazy
about the crew, you know. And Mother, I think, is a worse fan than I
am. You know Junior Doane, of course.”
“Oh, yes—that is, I—why, yes, I know him.”
“Yes.” She smiled down upon him. “If you're ever down to the Groton,
do drop in. Mother would love to see you. She often speaks of your
mother.” With a wave of her hand she had sped on her way.
Curiously, that evening he had heard Doane talking to her over the
telephone, and there was a great deal in his manner of speaking that
indicated something more than mere acquaintance.
But Deacon did not see Jane Bostwick at the hotel—not to speak to,
at least. He was not a good dancer and held aloof when those of his
fellows who were not acquainted with guests were introduced around.
Finding a wicker settee among some palms at one side of the orchestra,
Deacon sat drinking in the scene.
It was not until the hour set for the return had almost arrived that
Deacon saw Jane Bostwick, and then his attention was directed to her by
her appearance with Junior Doane in one of the open French windows at
his right. Evidently the two had spent the evening in the sequestered
darkness of the veranda. No pair in the room filled the eye so
gratefully; the girl, tall, blonde, striking in a pale blue evening
gown; the man, broad-shouldered, trim-waisted, with the handsome
high-held head of a patrician.
A wave of something akin to bitterness passed over
Deacon—bitterness having nothing to do with self. For the boy was
ruggedly independent. He believed in himself; knew what he was going to
do in the world. He was thinking of his father, and of the fathers of
that young man and girl before him. His father was painstaking,
honourable, considerate—a nobleman every inch of him; a man who
deserved everything that the world had to give, a man who had
everything save the quality of acquisition. And Doane's father? And
Jane Bostwick's father?
Of the elder Doane he knew by hearsay—a proud, intolerant wholly
worldly man whose passions, aside from finance, were his son and Baliol
aquatics. And Jane Bostwick's father he had known as a boy—a
soft-footed, sly-faced velvety sort of a man noted for converting back
lots into oil-fields and ash-dumps into mines yielding precious metals.
Jim Deacon was not so old that he had come to philosophy concerning the
way of the world.
But so far as his immediate world was concerned, Junior Doane was
going out of the varsity boat in the morning—and he, Jim Deacon, was
going to sit in his place.
It came the next morning. When the oarsmen went down to the
boathouse to dress for their morning row, the arrangement of the
various crews posted on the bulletin-board gave Deacon the seat at
stroke in the varsity boat; Junior Doane's name appeared at stroke in
the second varsity list.
There had been rumours of some sort of a shift, but no one seemed to
have considered the probability of Doane's losing his seat—Doane least
of all. For a moment the boy stood rigid, looking up at the
bulletin-board. Then suddenly he laughed.
“All right, Carry,” he said, turning to the captain of the second
varsity. “Come on; we'll show 'em what a rudder looks like.”
But it was not to be. In three consecutive dashes of a mile each,
the varsity boat moved with such speed as it had not shown all season.
There was life in the boat. Deacon, rowing in perfect form, passed the
stroke up forward with a kick and a bite, handling his oar with a
precision that made the eye of the coach glisten. And when the nervous
little coxswain called for a rousing ten strokes, the shell seemed
fairly to lift out of the water.
In the last mile dash Dr. Nicholls surreptitiously took his
stop-watch from his pocket and timed the sprint. When he replaced the
timepiece, the lines of care which had seamed his face for the past few
“All right, boys. Paddle in. Day after to-morrow we'll hold the
final time-trial. Deacon, be careful; occasionally you clip your stroke
at the finish.”
But Deacon didn't mind the admonition. He knew the coach's policy of
not letting a man think he was too good.
“You certainly bucked up that crew to-day, Deacon.” Jim Deacon, who
had been lying at full length on the turf at the top of the bluff
watching the shadows creep over the purpling waters of the river,
looked up to see Doane standing over him. His first emotion was one of
triumph. Doane, the son of Cephas Doane, his father's employer, had
definitely noticed him at last. Then the dominant emotion came—one of
“Well, the second crew moved better too.”
“Oh, I worked like a dog.” Doane laughed. “Of course you know I'm
going to get my place back, if I can.”
“Of course.” Deacon plucked a blade of grass and placed it in his
mouth. There was rather a constrained silence for a moment.
“I didn't know you came from my city, Deacon. I—Jane Bostwick told
me about you last night.”
“I see. I used to know her.” Inwardly Deacon cursed his natural
inability to converse easily, partly fearing that Doane would mistake
his reticence for embarrassment in his presence, or on the other hand
set him down as churlish and ill bred.
For his part Doane seemed a bit ill at ease.
“I didn't know, of course, anything Jane told me. If I had, of
course, I'd have looked you up more at the college.”
“We're both busy there in our different ways.”
Doane stood awkwardly for a moment and then walked away, not knowing
that however he may have felt about the conversation, he had at least
increased his stature in the mind of Jim Deacon.
Next day on the river Junior Doane's desperation at the outset
brought upon his head the criticism of the coach.
“Doane! Doane! You're rushing your slide. Finish out your stroke,
for heaven's sake.”
Deacon, watching the oarsman's face, saw it grow rigid, saw his
mouth set. Well he knew the little tragedy through which Doane was
Doane did better after that. The second boat gave the varsity some
sharp brushes while the coxswains barked and the coach shouted staccato
objurgation and comment through his megaphone, and the rival oarsmen
swung backward and forward in the expenditure of ultimate power and
But Jim Deacon was the man for varsity stroke. There was not the
least doubt about that. The coach could see it; the varsity could feel
it; but of them all Deacon alone knew why. He knew that Doane was
practically as strong an oar as he was, certainly as finished. And
Doane's experience was greater. The difficulty as Deacon grasped it was
that the boy had not employed all the material of his experience. The
coxswain, Seagraves, was a snappy little chap, with an excellent
opinion of his head. But Deacon had doubts as to his racing sense. He
could shoot ginger into his men, could lash them along with a fine
rhythm, but in negotiating a hard-fought race he had his shortcomings.
At least so Deacon had decided in the brushes against the varsity shell
when he was stroking the second varsity.
Deacon thanked no coxswain to tell him how to row a race, when to
sprint, when to dog along at a steady, swinging thirty; nor did he
require advice on the pacing and general condition of a rival crew. As
he swung forward for the catch, his practice was to turn his head
slightly to one side, chin along the shoulder, thus gaining through the
tail of his eye a glimpse of any boat that happened to be abeam,
slightly ahead or slightly astern. This glance told him everything he
wished to know. The coach did not know the reason for this peculiarity
in Deacon's style, but since it did not affect his rowing, he very
wisely said nothing. To his mind the varsity boat had at last begun to
arrive, and this was no time for minor points.
Two days before the Shelburne race the Baliol varsity in its final
time-trial came within ten seconds of equalling the lowest downstream
trial-record ever established—a record made by a Shelburne eight of
the early eighties. There was no doubt in the mind of any one about the
Baliol crew quarters that Deacon would be the man to set the pace for
his university in the supreme test swiftly approaching.
News of Baliol's improved form began to be disseminated in the daily
press by qualified observers of rowing form who were beginning to flock
to the scene of the regatta from New York, Philadelphia, and various
New England cities. Dr. Nicholls was reticent, but no one could say
that his demeanour was marked by gloom. Perhaps his optimism would have
been more marked had the information he possessed concerning Shelburne
been less disturbing. As a fact there was every indication that the
rival university would be represented by one of the best crews in her
history—which was to say a very great deal. In truth, Baliol rowing
enthusiasts had not seen their shell cross the line ahead of a
Shelburne varsity boat in three consecutive years, a depressing state
of affairs which in the present season had filled every Baliol rowing
man with grim determination and the graduates with alternate hope and
“Jim,” said the coach, drawing Deacon from the float upon which he
had been standing, watching the antics of a crew of former Baliol
oarsmen who had come from far and wide to row the mile race of
“Gentlemen's Eights” which annually marked the afternoon preceding the
classic regatta day, “Jim, you're not worried at all, are you? You're
such a quiet sort of a chap, I can't seem to get you.”
Deacon smiled faintly.
“No, I'm not worried—not a bit, sir. I mean I'm going to do my
best, and if that's good enough, why—well, we win.”
“I want you to do more than your best to-morrow, Jim. It's got to be
a super-effort. You're up against a great Shelburne crew, the greatest
I ever saw—that means twelve years back. I wouldn't talk to every man
this way, but I think you're a stroke who can stand responsibility. I
think you're a man who can work the better when he knows the size of
his job. It's a big one, boy—the biggest I've ever tackled.”
The coach studied him a minute.
“How do you feel about beating Shelburne? What I mean,” he went on
as the oarsman regarded him, puzzled, “is, would it break your heart to
lose? Is the thought of being beaten so serious that you can't—that
you won't consider it?”
“No sir, I won't consider it. I don't go into anything without
wanting to come out ahead. I've worked three years to get into the
varsity. I realize the position you've given me will help me, make me
stand out after graduation, mean almost as much as my diploma—provided
we can win.”
“What about Baliol? Do you think of the college, too, and what a
victory will mean to her? What defeat will mean?”
“Oh,” Deacon shrugged; “of course,” he went on a bit carelessly, “we
want to see Baliol on top as often——” He stopped, then broke into a
chuckle as the stroke of the gentlemen's eight suddenly produced from
the folds of his sweater a bottle from which he drank with dramatic
unction while his fellow-oarsmen clamoured to share the libation and
the coxswain abused them all roundly.
The eyes of the coach never left the young man's face. But he said
nothing while Deacon took his fill of enjoyment of the jovial scene,
apparently forgetting the sentence which he had broken in the middle.
But that evening something of the coach's meaning came to Deacon as
he sat on a rustic bench watching the colours fade from one of those
sunset skies which have ever in the hearts of rowing men who have ever
spent a hallowed June on the heights of that broad placid stream. The
Baliol graduates had lost their race against the gentlemen of
Shelburne, having rowed just a bit worse than their rivals. And now the
two crews were celebrating their revival of the ways of youth with a
dinner provided by the defeated eight. Their laughter and their songs
went out through the twilight and were lost in the recesses of the
river. One song with a haunting melody caught Deacon's attention; he
listened to get the words.
Then raise the rosy goblet high,
The senior's chalice and belie
The tongues that trouble and defile,
For we have yet a little while
To linger, you and youth and I,
In college days.
A group of oarsmen down on the lawn caught up the song and sent it
winging through the twilight, soberly, impressively, with ever-surging
harmony. College days! For a moment a dim light burned in the back of
his mind. It went out suddenly. Jim Deacon shrugged and thought of the
morrow's race. It was good to know he was going to be a part of it. He
could feel the gathering of enthusiasm, exhilaration in the
atmosphere—pent-up emotion which on the morrow would burst like a
thunderclap. In the quaint city five miles down the river hotels were
filling with the vanguard of the boat-race throng—boys fresh from the
poetry of Commencement; their older brothers, their fathers, their
grandfathers, living again the thrill of youth and the things thereof.
And mothers and sisters and sweethearts! Deacon's nerves tingled
pleasantly in response to the glamour of the hour.
“Oh, Jim Deacon!”
“Hello!” Deacon turned his face toward the building whence the voice
“Somebody wants to see you on the road by the bridge over the
“See me? All right.”
Filled with wonder, Deacon walked leisurely out of the yard and then
reaching the road, followed in the wake of an urchin of the
neighbourhood who had brought the summons, and could tell Deacon only
that it was some one in an automobile.
It was, in fact, Jane Bostwick.
“Jump up here in the car, won't you, Jim?” Her voice was somewhat
tense. “No, I'm not going to drive,” she added as Deacon hesitated. “We
can talk better.”
“Have you heard from your father lately?” she asked as the young man
sprang into the seat at her side.
“No, not in a week. Why, is there anything the matter with him?”
“Of course not.” She touched him lightly upon the arm. “You knew
that Mr. Bell, cashier of the National Penn Bank, had died?”
“No. Is that so! That's too bad.” Then suddenly Deacon sat erect.
“By George! Father is one of the assistant cashiers there. I wonder if
he'll be promoted.” He turned upon the girl. “Is that what you wanted
to tell me?”
She waited a bit before replying.
“No—not exactly that.”
“Not exactly——What do you mean?”
“Do you know how keen Mr. Doane, I mean Junior's father is on
rowing? Well,”—as Deacon nodded,—“have you thought how he might feel
toward the father of the man who is going to sit in his son's seat in
the race to-morrow? Would it make him keen to put that father in Mr.
Deacon's exclamation was sharp.
“Who asked you to put that thought in my mind?”
“Ah!” Her hand went out, lying upon his arm. “I was afraid you were
going to take it that way. Mother was talking this afternoon. I thought
you should know. As for Junior Doane, I'm frank to admit I'm awfully
keen about him. But that isn't why I came here. I remember how close
you and your father used to be. I—I thought perhaps you'd thank me,
“What you mean is that because I have beaten Doane out for stroke,
his father may be sore and not promote my father at the bank.”
“There's no 'may' about it. Mr. Doane will be sore. He'll be sore at
Junior, of course. But he'll be sore secretly at you, and where there
is a question of choice of cashier between your father and
another man—even though the other man has not been so long in the
bank—how do you think his mind will work; I mean, if you lose? Of
course, if you can win, then I am sure everything will be all right.
“If I can win! What difference would that——” He stopped suddenly.
“I've caught what you mean.” He laughed bitterly. “Parental jealousy.
All right! All right!”
“Jim, I don't want you——”
“Don't bother. I've heard all I can stand, Jane. Thank you.” He
lurched out of the car and hurried away.
She called him. No answer. Waiting a moment, the girl sighed,
touched the self-starter and drove away.
Deacon had no idea of any lapse of time between the departure of the
car and himself in his cot prepared for sleep—with, however, no idea
that sleep would come. His mood was pitiable. His mind was a mass of
whirling thoughts in the midst of which he could recognize pictures of
his boyhood, a little boy doing many things—with a hand always tucked
within the fingers of a great big man who knew everything, who could do
everything, who could always explain all the mysteries of the big,
strange, booming world. There were many such pictures, pictures not
only relating to boyhood, but to his own struggle at Baliol, to the
placid little home in Philadelphia and all that it had meant, all that
it still meant, to his father, to his mother, to him, Any act of his
that would bring sorrow or dismay or the burden of defeated hope to
But on the other hand, the morrow was to bring him the crown of
toilsome years, was to make his name one to conjure with wherever
Baliol was loved or known. He knew what the varsity cachet would
do for his prospects in the world. And after all, he had his own life
to live, had he not? Would not the selfish, or rather the rigorous,
settlement of this problem, be for the best in the end, since his
making good would simply be making good for his father and his mother?
But how about his father's chance for making good on his own account?
A comrade in the cot adjoining heard a groan.
“Eh! Are you sick, Deacon? Are you all right?”
“Sure—dreaming,” came the muffled reply.
There was something unreal to Deacon about the morning. The sunlight
was filled with sinister glow; the voices of the rowing men were
strange; the whole environment seemed to have changed. It was difficult
for Jim Deacon to look upon the bronzed faces of the fellows about the
breakfast table, upon the coach with his stiff moustache and glittering
eyeglasses—difficult to look upon them and realize that within a few
hours his name would be anathema to them, that forever where loyal men
of Baliol gather he would be an outcast, a pariah.
That was what he would be—an outcast. For he had come to his
decision: Just what he would do he did not know. He did not know that
he would not stroke the Baliol varsity. Out of all the welter of
thought and travail had been resolved one dominant idea. His father
came first: there was no evading it. With all the consequences that
would follow the execution of his decision he was familiar. He had come
now to know what Baliol meant to him as a place not only of education,
but a place to be loved, honoured, revered. He knew what his future
might be. But—his father came first. Arising from the breakfast-table,
he spoke to but one man, Junior Doane.
“Doane,” he said, drawing him to one side, “you will row at stroke
The man stared at him. “Are you crazy, Deacon?”
“No, not crazy. I'm not feeling well; that's all.”
“But look here, Deacon—you want to see the coach. You're off your
head or something. Wait here, just a minute.” As Doane hurried away in
search of Dr. Nicholls, Deacon turned blindly through the yard and so
out to the main road leading to a picturesque little river city about
nine miles up the stream.
June was at her loveliest in this lovable country with its walled
fields, its serene uplands and glowing pastures, its lush river meadows
and wayside flowers. But of all this Deacon marked nothing as with head
down he tramped along with swift, dogged stride. Up the river three or
four miles farther on was the little city of which he had so often
heard but never seen, the little city of Norton, so like certain
English river-cities according to a veteran Oxford oarsman who had
visited the Baliol quarters the previous season. Deacon had an interest
in strange places; he had an eye for the picturesque and the colourful.
He would wander about the place, filling his mind with impressions. He
had always wanted to go to Norton; it had seemed like a dream city to
He was in fact striding along in the middle of the road when the
horn of a motorcar coming close behind startled him. As he turned, the
vehicle sped up to his side and then stopped with a grinding of brakes.
Dr. Nicholls, the coach, rose to his full height in the roadster and
glared down at Deacon, while Junior Doane, who had been driving, stared
fixedly over the wheel. The coach's voice was merely a series of
profane roars. He had ample lungs, and the things he said seemed to
echo far and wide. His stentorian anger afforded so material a contrast
to the placid environment that Deacon stood dazed under the vocal
avalanche, hearing but a blur of objurgation.
“Eh?” He paused as Junior Doane placed an admonishing hand upon his
“I beg your pardon, Doctor; but I don't think that is the right way.
May I say something to Deacon?”
The coach, out of breath, nodded and gestured, sinking into his
seat. “Look here, Jim Deacon, we've come to take you back. You can't
buck out the race this way, you know. It isn't done. Now, wait a
minute!” he cried sharply as the boy in the road made to speak. “I know
why you ran away. Jane Bostwick called me up and told me everything.
She hadn't realized quite what she was doing——”
“She—she bungled everything.”
“Bungled! What do you mean, Dr. Nicholls?”
“Nothing—nothing! You young idiot, don't you realize you're trying
to kill yourself for life? Jump into the car.”
“I'm not going to row.” Deacon's eyes smoldered upon the two.
Studying him a moment, Dr. Nicholls suddenly grasped the seriousness
of Deacon's mood. He leaped from the car and walked up to him, placing
a hand upon his shoulder.
“Look here, my boy: You've let a false ideal run away with you. Do
you realize that some twenty-five thousand people throughout this
country are having their interests tossed away by you? You represent
them. They didn't ask you to. You came out for the crew and worked
until you won a place for yourself, a place no one but you can fill.
There are men, there are families on this riverside to-day, who have
traveled from San Francisco, from all parts of the country, to see
Baliol at her best. There are thousands who have the right to ask us
that Shelburne is not permitted to win this afternoon. Do you realize
Deacon raised his hand.
“I've heard it said often, Dr. Nicholls, that any one who gets in
Cephas Doane's way gets crushed. I'm not afraid of him, nor of any one
else, on my own account; but I'm afraid of him because of my father. My
father is getting to be an old man. Do you think I am going to do
anyth——” Deacon's voice, which had been gathering in intensity, broke
suddenly. He couldn't go on.
“Jim Deacon!” There was a note of exhilaration in Junior Doane's
voice. He hastily climbed out of the car and joined the coach at
Deacon's side. “I'm not going to defend my father now. No one knows him
as I do; no one knows as I do the great big stuff that is in him. He
and I have always been close, and——”
“Then you know how he'd feel about any one who took your place in
the boat. He can't hurt me. But he can break my father's heart——”
“Deacon, is that the opinion you have of my father!”
“Tell me the truth, Doane; is there the chance under the conditions
that with a choice between two men in the bank he might fail to see
Father? Isn't it human nature for a man as dominant and strong as he
is, who has always had or got most of the things he wants, to feel that
“Perhaps. But not if you can win out against Shelburne. Can't you
see your chance, Deacon? Go in and beat Shelburne; Father'll be so glad
he'll fall off the observation-train. You know how he hates Shelburne.
Any soreness he has about my missing out at stroke will be directed at
me—and it won't be soreness, merely regret. Don't you get it?”
“And if we lose——”
“If we lose, there's the chance that we're all in the soup.”
“I'm not, if I keep out of this thing——”
“If we lose with me at stroke, do you suppose it will help
you or any one related to you with my father when he learns that Baliol
would probably have won with you stroking?
“My Lord, Jim Deacon,” Doane went on as the other did not reply, “do
you suppose this is any fun for me, arguing with you to swing an oar
this afternoon when I would give my heart's blood to swing it in your
“Why do you do it, then?”
“Why do I do it? Because I love Baliol. Because her interests stand
above mine. Because more than anything I want to see her win. I didn't
feel this way when you beat me out for stroke. I'll admit it. I didn't
show my feelings, but I was thinking of nothing but my licking——”
“Just a minute, Jim. I didn't realize the bigness of the thing,
didn't appreciate that what I wanted to do didn't count for a damn.
Baliol, only Baliol! It all came to me when you bucked out. Baliol is
all that counts, Jim. If I can help her win by rooting from the
observation-car, all right! But—don't think it's any fun for me urging
you to come back and row. For I wanted to row this race, old boy.
Doane's voice faltered. “But I can't; that's all. Baliol needs a
better man—needs you. As for you, you've no right to consider anything
else. You go in—and win.”
“Win!” Jim Deacon stood in the road, rigid, his voice falling to a
whisper. “Win!” Into his eyes came a vacant expression. For a moment
the group stood in the middle of the road as though transfixed. Then
the coach placed his hand upon Deacon's arm, gently.
“Come Jim,” he said.
The afternoon had gone silently on. Jim Deacon sat on the veranda of
the crew-quarters, his eyes fixed upon the river. Some of the crew were
trying to read; others lounged about talking in low voices.
Occasionally the referee's launch would appear off the float, the
official exchanging some words with the coach while the oarsmen watched
eagerly. Then the launch would turn and disappear.
“Too rough yet, boys. They're going to postpone another hour.” Twice
had the coach brought this word to the group of pent-up young men who
in a manner of speaking were sharing the emotions of the condemned
awaiting the executioner's summons. Would the up-river breeze never
subside and give them conditions that would be satisfactory to the
Deacon lurched heavily in his seat.
“What difference does it make so long as the shells won't sink?” he
“We're ready,” replied Dick Rollins. “It's Shelburne holding things
up; she wants smooth water, of course. It suits me, though. Things will
soften up by sunset.”
“Sunset!” Deacon scowled at the western skies. “Well, sunset isn't
so far off as it was.”
Word came, as a matter of fact, shortly after five o'clock. The
coach, with solemn face, came up to the cottage, bringing the summons.
After that for a little while Jim Deacon passed through a series of
vague impressions rather than living experience. There was the swift
changing of clothes in the cavernous boathouse, the bearing of the boat
high overhead to the edge of the float, the splash as it was lowered
into the water. Mechanically he leaned forward to lace the
stretcher-shoes, letting the handle of his oar rest against his
stomach; mechanically he tried to slide, tested the oarlock.
Then some one gripped the blade of his oar, pushing gently outward.
The shell floated gingerly out into the stream.
“Starboard oars, paddle.” Responsive to the coxswain's sharp command
Deacon plied his blade, and in the act there came to him clarity of
perception. He was out here to win, to win not only for Baliol, but for
himself, for his father. There could be no thought of not winning; the
imminence of the supreme test had served to fill him with the
consciousness of indomitable strength, to thrill his muscles with the
call for tremendous action.
As the shell swept around a point of land, a volume of sound rolled
across the waters. Out of the corner of his eye he caught view of the
long observation-train, vibrant with animation, the rival colours
commingled so that all emblem of collegiate affiliation was lost in a
merger of quivering hue. A hill near the starting-line on the other
side of the river was black with spectators, who indeed filled points
of vantage all down the four miles of the course. The clouds above the
western hills were turning crimson; the waters had deepened to purple
and were still and silent.
“There, you hell-dogs!” The voice of the coxswain rasped in its
combativeness. “Out there is Shelburne; ahead of us at the line. Who
says it'll be the last time she'll be ahead of us?”
Along the beautiful line of brown, swinging bodies went a low growl,
a more vicious rattle of the oarlocks.
Suddenly as Jim Deacon swung forward, a moored skiff swept past his
blade, the starting-line.
“Weigh all.” The coxswain's command was immediately followed by
others designed to work the boat back to proper starting-position.
Deacon could easily see the Shelburne crew now—big men all, ideal
oarsmen to look at. Their faces were set and grim, their eyes straight
ahead. So far as they gave indication, their shell might have been
alone on the river. Now the Baliol shell had made sternway sufficient
for the man in the skiff to seize the rudder. The Shelburne boat was
already secured. Astern hovered the referee's boat, the official
standing in the bow directing operations. Still astern was a larger
craft filled with favoured representatives of the two colleges, the
rival coaches, the crew-managers and the like.
“Are you all ready, Baliol?”
“Yes, sir.” Deacon, leaning forward, felt his arms grow tense.
“Are you all ready, Shelburne?”
The affirmative was followed by the sharp report of a pistol. With a
snap of his wrist Deacon beveled his oar, which bit cleanly into the
water and pulled. There followed an interval of hectic stroking, oars
in and out of the water as fast as could be done, while spray rose in
clouds and the coxswain screamed the measure of the beat.
“Fine, Baliol.” The coxswain's voice went past Deacon's ear like a
bullet. “Both away together and now a little ahead at forty-two to the
minute. But down now. Down—down—down—down! That's it—thirty-two to
the minute. It's a long race, remember. Shelburne's dropping the beat,
too. You listen to Papa, all of you; he'll keep you wise. Number three,
for God's sake don't lift all the water in the river up on your blade
at the finish. Shelburne's hitting it up a bit. Make it thirty-four.”
“Not yet.” Deacon scowled at the tense little coxswain. “I'll do the
timing.” Chick Seagraves nodded.
Swinging forward to the catch, his chin turned against his shoulder,
Deacon studied the rival crew which with the half-mile flags flashing
by had attained a lead of some ten feet. Their blades were biting the
water hardly fifty feet from the end of his blade, the naked brown
bodies moving back and forth in perfect rhythm and with undeniable
power registered in the snap of the legs on the stretchers and the pull
of the arms. Deacon's eyes swept the face of the Shelburne coxswain; it
was composed. He glanced at the stroke. The work, apparently, was
costing him nothing.
“They're up to thirty-four,” cried Seagraves as the mile flags drew
“They're jockeying us, Chick. We'll show our fire when we get ready.
Let 'em rave.”
Vaguely there came to Deacon a sound from the river-bank—Shelburne
enthusiasts acclaiming a lead of a neat half a length.
“Too much—too much.” Deacon shook his head. Either Shelburne was
setting out to row her rival down at the start, or else, as Deacon
suspected, she was trying to smoke Baliol out, to learn at an early
juncture just what mettle was in the rival boat. A game, stout-hearted,
confident crew will always do this, it being the part of good racing
policy to make a rival know fear as early as possible. And Shelburne
believed in herself, beyond any question of doubt.
And whether she was faking, or since Baliol could not afford to let
the bid go unanswered, a lead of a quarter of a length at the mile had
to be challenged:
“Give 'em ten at thirty-six!” Deacon's voice was thick with
gathering effort. “Talk it up, Chick.”
From the coxswain's throat issued a machine-gun fusillade of
“Ten, boys! A rouser now. Ten! Come on. One—two—three—four—oh,
boy! Are we walking! Five—six—are they anchored over there?
Seven—oh, you big brown babies! Eight—Shelburne, good
Deacon, driving backward and forward with fiery intensity, feeling
within him the strength of some huge propulsive machine, was getting
his first real thrill of conflict—the thrill not only of actual
competition, but of all it meant to him, personally: his father's
well-being, his own career—everything was merged in a luminous
background of emotion for which that glittering oar he held was the
Shelburne had met the spurt, but the drive of the Baliol boat was
not to be denied. Gradually the two prows came abreast, and then
Deacon, not stopping at the call of ten, but fairly carrying the crew
along with him, swung on with undiminished ferocity, while Seagraves'
voice rose into a shrill crescendo of triumph as Baliol forged to the
“They know a little now.” Deacon's voice was a growl as gradually he
reduced the beat to thirty-two, Shelburne already having diminished the
Deacon studied them. They were rowing along steadily, the eyes of
their coxswain turned curiously upon the Baliol shell. He suspected the
little man would like nothing better than to have Baliol break her back
to the two-mile mark and thus dig a watery grave. He suspected also,
that, failing Baliol's willingness to do this, the test would now be
forced upon her. For Shelburne was a heavy crew with all sorts of
staying power. What Deacon had to keep in mind was that his eight was
not so rugged and had therefore to be nursed along, conserving energy
It was in the third mile that the battle of wits and judgment had to
be carried to conclusion, the fourth mile lurking as a mere matter of
staying power and ability to stand the gaff. Deacon's idea was that at
present his crew was leading because Shelburne was not unwilling for
the present that this should be. How true this was became evident after
the two-mile flags had passed, when the Shelburne oarsmen began to lay
to their strokes with tremendous drive, the boat creeping foot by foot
upon the rival shell until the Baliol lead had been overcome and
Shelburne herself swept to the fore.
Deacon raised the stroke slightly, to thirty-three, but soon dropped
to thirty-two, watching Shelburne carefully lest she make a runaway
then and there. Baliol was half a length astern at the two-and-a-half
mile mark, passing which the Shelburne crew gave themselves up to a
tremendous effort to kill off her rival then and there.
“Jim! They're doing thirty-six—walking away.”
The coxswain's face was white and drawn.
But Deacon continued to pass up a thirty-two stroke while the
Shelburne boat slid gradually away until at the three-mile mark there
was a foot of clear water between its rudder and the prow of the Baliol
Deacon glanced at the coxswain. A mile to go—one deadly mile.
“Thirty-six,” he said. “Shelburne's can't have much more left.”
The time had passed for study now. Gritting his teeth, Deacon bent
to his work, his eyes fixed upon the swaying body of the coxswain,
whose sharp staccato voice snapped out the measure; the beat of the
oars in the locks came as one sound.
“Right, boys! Up we come. Bully—bully—bully! Half a length now. Do
you hear? Half a length! Give me a quarter, boys. Eh, Godfrey! We've
got it. Now up and at 'em, Baliol. Oh, you hell-dogs!”
As in a dream Deacon saw the Shelburne boat drift into view, saw the
various oarsmen slide past until he and the rival stroke were rowing
“That's for you, Dad,” he muttered—and smiled.
He saw the men swing with quickened rhythm, saw the spray fly like
bullets from the Shelburne blades.
“Look out.” There was a note of anguish in Seagraves' voice.
“Shelburne's spurting again.”
A malediction trembled upon Deacon's lips. So here was the joker
held in reserve by the rival crew! Had Baliol anything left? Had he
anything left? Grave doubt was mounting in his soul. Away swept the
Shelburne boat inches at a stroke until the difference in their
positions was nearly a length. Three miles and a half! Not an observer
but believed that this gruelling contest had been worked out.
Seagraves, his eyes running tears, believed it as he swung backward and
forward exhorting his men. Half a mile more! The crews were now rowing
between the anchored lines of yachts and excursion-craft. The finish
boat was in sight.
And now Deacon, exalted by something nameless, uttered a cry and
began to give to Baliol more than he really had. Surely, steadily, he
raised his stroke while his comrades, like the lion-hearts they were,
took it up and put the sanction of common authority upon it.
Thirty-four! Thirty-six! Not the spurt of physical prowess, but of
“Up we come!” Seagraves' voice was shrill like a bugle. He could see
expressions of stark fear in the faces of the rival oarsmen. They had
given all they had to give, had given enough to win almost any race.
But here in this race they had not given enough.
On came the Baliol shell with terrific impulse. Quarter of a mile;
Shelburne passed, her prow hanging doggedly on to the Baliol rudder.
Victory! Deacon's head became clear. None of the physical torture he
had felt in the past mile was now registered upon his consciousness. No
thought but that of impending victory!
“Less than a quarter of a mile, boys. In the stretch. Now—my God!”
Following the coxswain's broken exclamation, Deacon felt an
increased resistance upon his blade.
“Innis has carried away his oarlock.” The eyes of the coxswain
strained upon Deacon's face.
Deacon gulped. Strangely a picture of his father filled his mind.
His face hardened.
“All right! Tell him to throw his oar away and swing with the rest.
Don't move your rudder now. Keep it straight as long as you can.”
From astern the sharp eyes of the Shelburne cox had detected the
accident to Baliol's Number Six. His voice was chattering stridently.
Deacon, now doing the work practically of two men, was undergoing
torture which shortly would have one of two effects. Either he would
collapse or his spirit would carry him beyond the claims of overtaxed
physique. One stroke, two strokes, three strokes—a groan escaped his
lips. Then so far as personality, personal emotions, personal feelings
were concerned, Jim Deacon ceased to function. He became merely part of
the mechanism of a great effort, the principal guiding part.
And of all those rowing men of Baliol only the coxswain saw the
Shelburne boat creeping up slowly, inexorably—eight men against seven.
For nearly a quarter of a mile the grim fight was waged.
“Ten strokes more, boys!”
The prow of the Shelburne shell was on a line with Baliol's Number
“One—two—three—four——” The bow of the Shelburne boat plunged up
abeam Baliol's bow oar.
The voice of the coxswain swept upward in a shrill scream. A gun
boomed; the air rocked with the screech and roar of whistles.
Slowly Deacon opened his eyes. Seagraves, the coxswain, was standing
up waving his megaphone. Rollins, at Number Seven, lay prone over his
oar. Innis, who had broken his oarlock, sat erect; Wallace, at Number
Five, was down. So was the bow oar. Mechanically Deacon's hand sought
the water, splashing the body of the man in front of him. Then suddenly
a mahogany launch dashed alongside. In the bow was a large man with
white moustache and florid face and burning black eyes. His lips were
drawn in a broad grin which seemed an anomaly upon the face of Cephas
If so he immediately presented a still greater anomaly. He laughed
“Poor old Shelburne! I—George! The first in four years! I never saw
anything quite like that. We've talked of Baliol's rowing-spirit—eh!
Here, you Deacon, let me give you a hand out of the shell. We'll run
you back to quarters.”
Deacon, wondering, was pulled to the launch and then suddenly
stepped back, his jaw falling, his eyes alight as a man advanced from
“Yes,” chuckled Doane. “We came up together—to celebrate.”
“You mean—you mean—” Jim Deacon's voice faltered.
“Yes, I mean—” Cephas Doane stopped suddenly. “I think in justice
to my daughter-in-law to be, Jane Bostwick, that some explanation is in
“Yes, sir.” Deacon, his arm about his father's shoulder, stared at
“You see, Dr. Nicholls had the idea that you needed a finer edge put
on your rowing spirit. So I got Jane to cook up the story about that
cashier business at the bank.”
“Yes. Of course your father was appointed. The only trouble was that
Jane, bright and clever as she is, bungled her lines.”
“Bungled!” Deacon's face cleared. “That's what Dr. Nicholls said
about her on the road, the day I bucked out. I remember the word
“She bungled, yes. She was to have made it very clear that by
winning you would escape my alleged wrath—or rather, your father
would. I knew you would row hard for Baliol, but I thought you might
row superhumanly for your father.”
“Well,” Jim Deacon flushed, then glanced proudly at his father—
“you were right, sir—I would.”