The First Round





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."





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