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In the midst of the Hopevale cheering, Johnson took his second throw, and improved on his first trial by a couple of feet. McDonald shook his head. "He's out of it," he said. "A great little man, too, but not heavy enough for all-round work. It's you or Ellis, now, d.i.c.k. Johnson won't bother either of you for first."
d.i.c.k nodded. Ellis made ready for his second throw with the greatest care. There was little to criticize in his form. And backed by his great strength, the hammer seemed scarcely more than a toy in his hands. As the missile went hurtling through the air, the cheers redoubled. Even from the spectators' seats it was easy to see that he had bettered his previous try, and soon the scorer shouted, "One hundred and sixty-five feet, one inch."
McDonald whistled. "He's a good man with the weights," he admitted with reluctance; then figured again. "d.i.c.k," he said, "you'll have to get in one good one. You've got to fetch a hundred and fifty feet, if you're going to win. Don't stiffen up now. Keep cool, and think it's only practice. You've done it for me. You can do it now."
d.i.c.k walked forward, and picked up the hammer for his second try. Out from the grandstand came the Fenton cheer, and then, at the end, his name "Randall, Randall, Randall!" thrice repeated. Where other stimulants would have failed, this one was successful. d.i.c.k felt his muscles grow tense as steel. He thought of Putnam, and the race on the river. "Be game," he whispered to himself, under his breath, and stepped forward into the ring, his brain clear, his nerves under control. Once, twice, thrice, he swung the hammer around, his head, and then, with splendid speed, turned and let it go. Clearly, he had improved on his former throw. The measurers pulled the tape tight, and then the announcer called, "One hundred and forty-nine, three."
McDonald calculated hurriedly; then gave a little exclamation of astonishment. "A tie," he cried; "that puts you just even, and one more throw apiece. Three hundred and forty-seven points each. A tie; that's what it is."
Near Ellis' side stood a slender, dark young man, who had watched d.i.c.k's appearance on the field with an expression of utter amazement.
Although the day was warm, he had worn, all through the games, a long, loose coat, of fashionable cut, and now he crowded closer to Ellis'
side. "Pick it up, when I drop it, Dave," he whispered. "It's your only show. You can't beat one hundred and sixty-five without it."
A moment later he walked away. And Ellis, stooping, put his hand on a hammer apparently identical with the two which had been so carefully weighed and measured before the games had begun. He held it uncertainly, as if not overjoyed at his burden. Once he turned, and looked imploringly at the man who had spoken to him. The man frowned back at him savagely, and Ellis sighed, as if persuaded against his will.
And now Johnson made his last throw. He tried desperately, and improved his record to one hundred and thirty feet. But his chance was gone, and he knew it, taking his defeat gamely enough, with a smile and shrug of his shoulders. He had done his best; it was not good enough; that was all.
"Ellis; last try," called the clerk of the course. Ellis walked quickly forward, and got into position. d.i.c.k, watching him, seemed to see a new power and skill in the way in which his rival swung, and when he delivered the weight, d.i.c.k felt his heart sink like lead. Out, out, it sailed, as though it would never stop. Hopevale was cheering itself hoa.r.s.e. It looked like a record throw. And finally the announcer, scarlet with excitement, cried, in the midst of the hush that followed his first words, "Mr. Ellis throws one hundred and seventy-three feet, eight and a quarter inches, a new record for the league."
d.i.c.k turned to McDonald, but McDonald was no longer at his side. He was striding away down the field. The man who brought in the hammer, after each throw, was just starting back with it, when a slight, dapper fellow accosted him. "I'll carry that in for you," he said pleasantly, "I'm going that way," and the man, thanking him, gladly enough relinquished his burden.
Face to face came the kind-hearted stranger and Duncan McDonald.
McDonald reached out his hand. "I'll thank you for a look at that weapon," he said grimly.
The stranger looked at him blankly. "What do you mean?" he asked.
McDonald grasped the wire handle. "Just exactly what I say," he rejoined. "You're a wise guy, Alec, but you're up against it this time. Hand over now; I haven't forgotten old times."
The young man forced a smile, and then, as McDonald wrenched the hammer from his grasp, he turned and made off across the field, swearing fluently under his breath.
McDonald hurried back to where the judges were standing, arriving just as d.i.c.k was making ready for his last try. "One minute, gentlemen," he called; "I wish to protest Mr. Ellis' throw, and the hammer it was made with. I don't believe the hammer is full weight."
The chief judge looked indignant. "Mr. McDonald," he said, "this is most unusual. The hammers were carefully weighed before the compet.i.tion began. And were found correct. In fact, both of them were a trifle overweight."
"But you didn't weigh this one," McDonald insisted. "This one has been rung in on you. I must ask you to weigh it, please."
Somewhat grudgingly, the judge complied; then started in astonishment.
He was a partisan of Hopevale, but he was an honest man, and he knew his duty. "Mr. Announcer," he said quickly; "say at once, please, that there was a mistake in Mr. Ellis' last throw; that an accident to the hammer will necessitate giving him another trial." Then, turning to the officials, he added, "This is exceedingly unfortunate, gentlemen; this hammer weighs but ten pounds and three-quarters. Does any one know how it got here?"
No one answered, and Ellis stepped forward to take his last throw, this time with a hammer of correct weight. His face was troubled; his former confidence seemed lacking, and his try fell well short of one hundred and sixty feet. And then d.i.c.k came forward in his turn. The controversy over the light hammer had given him just the rest he needed; he made ready for his throw with the utmost coolness, and got away a high, clean try, that looked good all the way. There was the beginning of a cheer and then a hush, as the announcer called, "One hundred and fifty-two, five."
The cheering began again, yet the result was so close that every one waited breathlessly for the official posting of the score. A moment's delay, and then up it went.
Randall 350 Ellis 347 Johnson 334
And then came the avalanche of wildly cheering spectators. Putnam, Allen, Brewster and Lindsay were first at d.i.c.k's side, and it was on their shoulders that he was borne across the field, a little overcome, now that the strain was over, with everything appearing a trifle dream-like and unreal, yet with three thoughts mingling delightfully in his mind: that he had won, won in spite of obstacles, fair and clean; that the Pentathlon shield was his, and best and most glorious of all, that the challenge cup would come to Fenton--to stay.
Thus, through the shouting and the cheering, he was carried along in triumph, and in the midst of it all, one other thought still came to him--the best thought, perhaps, that can ever come to a boy's mind.
Hopevale Oval had vanished, and in spirit he was a thousand miles away. "I wonder," he said to himself, with a sudden thrill of happiness, "I wonder what they'll say at home."