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The First Round








From: Glengarry Schooldays

The challenge from the Front was for the best two out of three, the
first game to be played the last day of the year. Steadily, under
Craven's coaching, the Twentieth team were perfected in their systematic
play; for although Craven knew nothing of shinny, he had captained the
champion lacrosse team of the province of Quebec, and the same general
rules of defense and attack could be applied with equal success to the
game of shinny. The team was greatly strengthened by the accession of
Thomas Finch and Don Cameron, both of whom took up the school again with
a view to college. With Thomas in goal, Hughie said he felt as if a big
hole had been filled up behind him.

The master caused a few preliminary skirmishes with neighboring teams
to be played by way of practice, and by the time the end of the year had
come, he felt confident that the team would not disgrace their school.
His confidence was not ill-founded.

"We have covered ourselves with glory," he writes to his friend Ned
Maitland, "for we have whipped to a finish the arrogant and mighty
Front. I am more than ever convinced that I shall have to take a few
days off and get away to Montreal, or some other retired spot, to
recover from the excitement of the last week.

"Under my diligent coaching, in which, knowing nothing whatever of
shinny, I have striven to introduce something of the lacrosse method,
our team got into really decent fighting trim. Under the leadership of
their captain, who has succeeded in infusing his own fierce and furious
temper into his men, they played like little demons, from the drop of
the ball till the game was scored. 'Furious' is the word, for they and
their captain play with headlong fury, and that, I might say, is about
their only defect, for if they ever should run into a bigger team, who
had any semblance of head about them, and were not merely feet, they
would surely come to grief.

"I cannot stay to recount our victory. Let it suffice that we were
driven down in two big sleigh-loads by Thomas Finch, the back wall of
our defense, and Don Cameron, who plays in the right of the forward
line, both great, strapping fellows, who are to be eventually, I
believe, members of my preparatory class.

"The Front came forth, cheerful, big, confident, trusting in the might
of their legs. We are told that the Lord taketh no pleasure in the legs
of man, and this is true in the game of shinny. Not legs alone, but
heart and head win, with anything like equal chances.

"Game called, 2:30; Captain Hughie has the drop; seizes the ball, passes
it to Fusie, who rushes, passes back to Hughie, who has arrived in the
vicinity of the enemy's goal, and shoots, swift and straight, a goal.
Time, 30 seconds.

"Again and again my little demons pierce the heavy, solid line of the
Front defense, and score, the enemy, big and bewildered, being chiefly
occupied in watching them do it. By six o'clock that evening I had them
safe at the manse in a condition of dazed jubilation, quite unable to
realize the magnificence of their achievement. They had driven twelve
miles down, played a two hours' game of shinny, score eight to two,
and were back safe and sound, bearing with them victory and some broken
shins, equally proud of both.

"There is a big supper at the manse, prepared, I believe, with the view
of consolation, but transformed into a feast of triumph, the minister
being enthusiastically jubilant over the achievement of his boys, his
wife, if possible, even more so. The heroes feed themselves to fullness,
amazing and complete, the minister holds a thanksgiving service, in
which I have no doubt my little demons most earnestly join, after which
they depart to shed the radiance of their glory throughout the section.

"And now I have to recount another experience of mine, quite unique and
altogether inexplicable. It appears that in this remarkable abode--I
would call it 'The Saint's Rest' were it not for the presence of others
than saints, and for the additional fact that there is little rest for
the saint who makes her dwelling here--in this abode there prevails the
quaint custom of watching the death of the old year and the birth of the
new. It is made the occasion of religious and heart-searching rite. As
the solemn hour of midnight draws on, a silence falls upon the family,
all of whom, with the exception of the newest infant, are present. It is
the family festival of the year.

"'And what will they be doing at your home, Mr. Craven?' inquires the
minister. The contrast that rose before my mind was vivid enough, for
having received my invitation to a big dance, I knew my sweet sisters
would be having a jolly wild time about that moment. My answer, given I
feel in a somewhat flippant tone, appears to shock my shinny captain of
the angelic face, who casts a honor-stricken glance at his mother, and
waits for the word of reproof that he thinks is due from the padre's
lips.

"But before it falls the mother interposes with 'They will miss
you greatly this evening.' It was rather neatly done, and I think I
appreciated it.

"The rite proceeds. The initial ceremony is the repeating of a verse of
Scripture all round, and to save my life nothing comes to my mind but
the words, 'Remember Lot's wife.' As I cannot see the appropriateness of
the quotation, I pass.

"Five minutes before the stroke of twelve, they sing the Scottish
paraphrase beginning, 'O God of Bethel.' I do not suppose you ever heard
it, but it is a beautiful hymn, and singularly appropriate to the
hour. In this I lend assistance with my violin, the tune being the very
familiar one of 'Auld Lang Syne,' associated in my mind, however, with
occasions somewhat widely diverse from this. I assure you I am thankful
that my part is instrumental, for the whole business is getting onto my
emotions in a disturbing manner, and especially when I allow my eyes to
linger for a moment or two on the face of the lady, the center of the
circle, who is deliberately throwing away her fine culture and her
altogether beautiful soul upon the Anakim here, and with a beautiful
unconsciousness of anything like sacrifice, is now thanking God for the
privilege of doing so. I have some moments of rare emotional luxury,
those moments that are next to tears.

"Then the padre offers one of those heart-racking prayers of his that,
whether they reach anything outside or not, somehow get down into
one's vitals, and stir up remorses, and self-condemnings, and longings
unutterable. Then they all kiss the mother and wish her a Happy
New-Year.

"My boy, my dear boy, I have never known deeper moments than those.
And when I went to shake hands with her, she seemed so like a queen
receiving homage, that without seeming to feel I was making a fool
of myself, I did the Queen Victoria act, and saluted her hand. It is
wonderful how great moments discover the lady to you. She must have
known how I was feeling, for with a very beautiful grace, she said, 'Let
me be your mother for to-night,' and by Jove, she kissed me. I have been
kissed before, and have kissed some women in my time, but that is the
only kiss I can remember, and s'help me Bob, I'll never kiss another
till I kiss my wife.

"And then and there, Maitland, I swore by all that I knew of God, and by
everything sacred in life, that I'd quit the past and be worthy of her
trust; for the mischief of it is, she will persist in trusting you, puts
you on your honor noblesse oblige business, and all that. I think I told
you that I might end in being a saint. That dream I have surrendered,
but, by the grace of heaven, I'm going to try to be a man. And I am
going to play shinny with those boys, and if I can help them to win that
match, and the big game of life, I will do it.

"As witness my hand and seal, this first day of January, 18--

"J. C."





Next: The Final Round

Previous: The Downfall



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