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“Santa Lucia, California. I was in the high school there two years. Everything 's quite—quite different here.” Ned spoke hurriedly, as though anxious to switch the conversation from football, and Laurie smiled in wicked enjoyment. “The climate 's different, you know,” Ned went on desperately, “and the country and—and everything.” “I suppose so,” said Frank Brattle. “What 's your position, Turner?” “Position?” “Yes, I mean where did you play? the line, I suppose, or maybe end.” “Oh, yes, yes, behind the line. You see, I—I–” “There are n’t many fellows can play halfback the way Ned can,” said Laurie, gravely. “He won't tell you so, but if you ever meet any one who saw him play against Weedon School last year—” “Shut up!” begged Ned, almost tearfully. Kewpie was grinning delightedly. Joe Stevenson viewed Ned with absolute affection. “Half-back, eh? Well, we can use another good half, Turner, and I hope you 're the fellow. I don’t know whether Kewpie told you that I'm captain this year, but I am, and I’m going to try mighty hard to captain a winning team. You look a bit light, but I dare say you ’re fast, and, for my part, I like them that way. Besides, we 've got Mason and Boessel if we want the heavy sort. Practice starts to-morrow at four, by the way. How about your brother? Glad to have him come out, too. Even if he has n’t played, he might learn the trick. And there 's next year to think of, you know.” “I think not, thanks,” answered Laurie. “One football star is enough in the family.” “Well, if you change your mind, come on and have a try. Glad to have met you. See you to-morrow—er–Turner. I want to find Dave, Frank. Coming along?”
The two older boys made off toward West Hall, and as soon as they were out of hearing Ned turned indignantly on Laurie.
“You ’re a nice one!” he hissed. “Look at the hole you ’ve got me in! “Half-back!’ “Played against Weedon School!' What did you want to talk that way for? Why, those fellows think I know football!”
“Cheer up,” answered his brother, grinning. “All you ’ve got to do is bluff it through. Besides, Proudtree asked us not to let on we did n’t know a football from a
doughnut, and I had to say something! You
acted as if you were tongue-tied!” “Yes, that 's so—you started it!” Ned
turned belligerently around. “Said it would
be a favor to you—” He stopped, discovering that Proudtree had silently disappeared and that he was wasting his protests on the empty air. “Huh!” he resumed after a moment of surprise, “it 's a good thing he did beat it! Look here, Laurie, I 'm in a beast of a mess. You know I can’t face that captain chap to-morrow. Suppose he handed me a football and told me to kick it!”
“He won't. I've watched football practice back home. You 'll stand around in a circle—”
“How the dickens can Istand in a circle?” objected Ned.
“And pass a football for awhile. Then you 'll try starting, and maybe fall on the ball a few times, until you ’re nice and lame, and after that you 'll run around the track half a dozen times—”
“Oh, shut up! You make me sick! I won’t do it. I 'm through. I 'd look fine, would n't I? I guess not, partner!”
“You 've got to, Ned,” replied Laurie calmly. “You can’t back down now. The honor of the Turners is at stake! Come on up and I 'll read that rules book to you. Maybe some of it 'll seep in!”
After a moment of indecision Ned arose and followed silently.
(To be continued)
MY FAVORITE TREE
SOME people like the rugged oak,
Some like the maple-tree because
Some like the pine, and some the elm,
The story of a boy who lost Christmas and found it again
By KATHERINE DUNLAP CATHER
IN the doorway of a cabin in the California foot-hills, a dark-eyed child waited for the return of the cow-boys. He had been there for almost an hour, ever since the sun, like a great blood-orange, had dropped down on the summit of Bear Mountain, flooding the uplands with saffron-colored light and stretching violet curtains across the cañons. The sunset was a signal to him that the work of the range was finished for the day and that the men would be starting homeward, seventeen in all— big, stalwart fellows who spent many long, and solitary hours following the course of the cattle. He wondered who would be first to come. It did not matter much, because they all belonged to this country, that was so different from his old home across the sea, and any one of them could tell him what he wanted to know. Somehow he hoped that it might be Tom Barton, the big foreman, because Barton had such a pleasant way of showing him the horses and cattle, and was always willing to sit by his bed at night and tell stories that chased away the lonely feeling that comes to little boys who are far from home and want their mothers to tuck them down under the covers. A cloud of dust rolled southward from the mesa. That meant that somebody was riding toward the ranch-houses, and Jacques leaned forward, alert. A moment later he saw a horse come galloping toward him, and then he recognized Pluto, the pinto mustang Tom Barton always rode. His dark eyes gleamed eagerly as they watched the rider approach; and as the man rode in through the gate from the open range, he ran down to the corral to meet him.
"HE WATCHED IN DELIGHT,
“I’ve been waiting a long, long time,” he said, as he watched him unsaddle the mustang and turn him into the enclosure for the night. “I wanted to ask you about Père Noël.” Barton looked at the eager face with a puzzled expression. “Père Noël?” he questioned. “Père Noël? Who's he?” “Why, don't you know?” came the surprised answer. “He 's the good saint who comes on Christ's birthnight and leaves gifts for children who have been good and bundles of switches for bad ones. Always, in Belgium, he put cakes and sweetmeats in my shoe when I set it by the hearth. But when the war came, the Prussians drove him away; so after that I had nothing at all. But I thought here in America, where there had been no battles, he might come.” The cow-boy gave a whistle of surprise. “Well, you see we never had any boys on the Rio Bravo Ranch before, so the old fellow has n’t been in the habit of stopping here. But take my word for it that he'll be around this year.” But even as he spoke, his eyes seemed to say, “Just how it will be managed is more than I know.” Barton went to his cabin to wash for supper, and Jacques climbed up on the corral fence to talk to the horses. Never had he seen so many in one place until he came to the Rio Bravo Ranch, and to watch the men saddling and bridling them, or a mustang that never had known a rope trying to keep a cow-boy from mounting him, was wonderfully fascinating. At first, fear lest somebody should be killed made him miserable, but he soon learned that range riders know how to meet every fractious move of their animals. So he watched in delight, so strange and exciting it all was, for Jacques Buchère had not always lived in the California foothills, and his life before he came to them was spent in a very different world from the cow country. Beyond the sea, in the Belgian city of Louvain, he had opened his eyes upon the world; and there, until seven years old, he had lived with his father and mother. It was a happy life, with school during autumn and winter, games and sports throughout the long summer-time, and sometimes a picnic in the forests beyond the town. But the war came, and Louvain went down before the German advance like wheat stalks in front of a scythe; and when the bombardment was over, he was alone in the home that had been such a pleasant one. His parents? Ah yes, he had lived with them; but if it could speak, a Prussian shell would tell their pitiful story. At first, it seemed just a nightmare that would pass away, the loneliness, the sadness and stillness of it all. But when he looked through the broken windows into the smokechoked street, he knew it was not dream, but reality. Then a woman came, a good woman who wanted to help in alleviating the suffering of Louvain, and into her heart crept Jacques.
“I mean to adopt him,” he said, “and you boys will have to help me make him happy.” Cow-boys are big, rough fellows, hard muscled and iron nerved. They must be, to stand the life of the range. But it does not follow that their hearts are hard too. And these riders of the Rio Bravo, when they heard their employer's words, answered with a cheer. “We'll all adopt him,” spoke Jack Rankin, who was so big and shaggy in his bearskin coat that he looked like a bear. And sixteen lusty voices shouted in chorus, “Yes, yes!” So Jacques came over sea and land to find a whole company of foster-fathers waiting to receive him. It was a bit bewildering at first, and he got names and faces badly mixed. But before he had been on the ranch a day, he decided that the nicest
thing that can happen to any one is to be adopted by seventeen cow-boys. He was more sure of it than ever as he sat on the fence in the twilight; for as the men rode in, each had a cheery word for him, and Bud Nelson, the fat little cow-punch who made such a funny picture riding steers, brought him a rattlesnake skin that he said would make the finest kind of a belt. And had n’t Tom Barton just said that Père Noël would certainly leave gifts in his shoe this year? Jacques went to
- o - - o ****** bed early that night. SO STRANGE AND EXCITING IT ALL WAS The cow-boys gathered
She petted him and made the hard hours softer. And one day, to a ranch in the California foot-hills, went a letter with the Belgian boy's story. “I want to find a home for him in America,” wrote this nurse to her cousin William Dex. ter, who was owner of the Rio Bravo Ranch. “I want him to be happy after the sad things he has known.” William Dexter made a resolution as he read that letter, and very soon afterward he told his resolution to the cow-boys.
in Tom Barton's cabin to talk over plans, for the foreman had said they must have a Christmas tree, and how it was to be managed was more than anybody knew. They were forty miles from a store. The nearest evergreen trees were in the high Sierras, several times forty miles away, and the next day would be the twentyfourth of December. “I tell you, it can't be done,” Sid Watkins drawled, as they talked the matter over. “I’m game for anything anybody wants to do for the kid, but it would be as easy for a