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By Kingsley Moses

Everybody called him "Girlie." A girl had rescued him from drowning; a girl had dared him to follow her across thin ice; he even looked like a girl! But when it came to the great bobsled race

CHILDREN spilled out over the snowy roadway as if the red schoolhouse had suddenly been blown empty by a giant vacuum cleaner.

In sweaters, reefers and woolen coats and caps they pelted each other with the fresh, damp snow, whooping and yelling in the joy of freedom from another day's confinement. Right into their midst a big automobile came round the sharp bend in the road, unnoticed.

It was a miracle that no one was hurt; but the car, squeaking and slewing, and tossing chunks of snow from its locked wheels, stopped just short of the nearest little group. The Hilltop Road turned here after a sharp descent of almost two miles, turned that it might not run straight on into the deep chasm of Powder River. The car, coming up the hill, had put on speed for the long ascent, and the driver had evidently forgotten that country schoolhouse around the blind bend.

In front of the suddenly stalled car the children scattered in panic; then, quickly recognizing the figure at the wheel, burst into shrill cries.

"Yah—Girlie! Whyn't you look out where you're goin'!"

"Girlie—Girlie—Girlie!" came the shrill treble of a group of twelve-year-olds.

The face of the driver of the car flushed as red as the tam-o'-shanter of the youngster who had shrilled the loudest. And it was an extraordinarily handsome face, pink-skinned, oval, with rather full, red lips, blue eyes, and long sweeping eyelashes. Handsome—the face was positively pretty.

And that was the sorrow Tommy Evans was forced to bear; to have a face any girl would have envied—and yet to be a man.

For Tommy certainly considered himself a man. Wasn't he eighteen years old; in his first year at college? Yet, despite all that, despite the fact that he already owned a razor—though he had not yet been able to use it—despite his years and his feeling of dignity, here was this hateful nickname being thrown at him once more by a rowdy bunch of "kids." It was unbearable. He'd jump out and spank—

Yes, that would be a fine way to behave! Instead, with a harsh honk of his horn, he let out his clutch and put his foot on the accelerator. The "kids" scattered in front of him. But their shrieks and jeers followed him for a quarter of a mile. It was a cold day; but it wasn't the cold that made his ears the color of sausage.

In mortification he drove his father's big car at the long hill ahead, reckless now of the probability that no automobile could surmount that two-mile slope under its winter ice and snow—a hard slope even in the summer. But to take the longer way round through the village meant passing that jeering gang of children again; meant hearing that abominable chorus of "Girlie! Girlie!"

The big car did take the grade though, as a blooded horse takes a steep incline, lunging forward with all its power. But the first half-mile had not been gained before Tommy realized that again he must be careful of his driving. Past him, sweeping downwards, at sixty miles an hour, flashed a heavily loaded bobsled; the riders yelling exultantly as they passed. Half a dozen single sleds followed, traveling almost as speedily. The Hilltop Road was the finest coasting course in that part of the State.

Not an easy course, either, or one fit for tyros in the art of handling a loaded bobsled. From the crest, where the road came over the mountain, there was an almost straight stretch of about a mile. Then the road began to twist, dipping ever more steeply until, at last, it came out on the chasm of the Powder River, just at the schoolhouse, and ran away smoothly along the edge of the gulch. The turn at the schoolhouse was not a sharp one, not even half of a right angle, but that turn it was necessary to negotiate. Otherwise there was only the sixty-foot gorge, with the railroad trestle running its single track above the foaming water and rough rocks below.

The county authorities, tardily warned of the danger of even so slight a turn at the bottom of a steep hill by a disastrous automobile accident the year before, had raised a high, sloping bank at the outside of the curve, a bank so steep that only a blind chauffeur could now drive himself to destruction.

This, now that winter had come down with heavy snows and a hard freeze, was a magnificent run for a bobsled; and so difficult was the hill for any motorcar that the coasters had it almost wholly to themselves.

Stanch and powerful as was Tommy's car there is, however, a limit to any motor, and just before the end of the first mile a series of "thank-you-ma'ams"—diagonal humps in the road to drain off the water—forced him to switch into second. Rounding the last turn before beginning the straightaway ascent he suddenly overtook a party of tramping girls and boys, toiling up behind a long bobsled to which was hitched a horse. He recognized the sled as John Groff's—John didn't care anything about dragging a bobsled up two miles of hill.

Involuntarily Tommy's eyes turned to the figure beside Groff. Yes, no question to it. He'd thought as much. High boots, green heather stockings, knickerbockers, red and green Mackinaw and green tam-o'-shanter—that would be Eve Carew, certainly. Tommy grunted. He wished he could get more power from his bus; he wanted to pass quickly. He hated Eve Carew. Yes, he was quite sure of that. Hadn't any use for these modern women anyhow. Why couldn't girls be girls? Nice girls? Not Amazons—with husky voices and mannish strides and swelling biceps and skill at tennis and golf and swimming that made a fellow—

Instantly his mind flashed back to the day last summer when Eve had saved his life out there in the lake. He'd been taken with a sudden cramp only fifty yards from the float. But he had not been able to get back; he'd begun to choke. Then, suddenly an arm was around his neck, an arm sinewy and strong. Next thing he knew they were dragging him onto the float—and scraping all the skin off his stomach. He should have been grateful—sure! But the talk—and then the papers:

"Girl Athlete Saves Young College Boy!" "Son of Steel King Rescued by Beautiful Heroine!" "Handsome Lad About to Drown is Saved from Watery Grave by Beauty!" Golly! And even the kids called him "Girlie."

And now she was going with John Groff. Sure he was tackle on the varsity football team and champion middleweight wrestler. Sure he was—the big stiff! His foot jammed the accelerator; the car leaped.

Cries of "Oh, Tommy!" "Give us a lift, Tommy!" "Hey, wait a minute!" all were ignored. Somebody, a treble voice, had called "Girlie, oh, Girlie!"

Tommy drove the car home, put it in the garage, and went round to the rear to a box where he could view the setting sun. With brows drawn into a portentous scowl he seated himself, reached in his pocket, found what he searched for and drew it out. Deliberately he bit off a large corner of the plug of chewing tobacco. Presently he felt better. He had at least one manly accomplishment.

The Powder River bobsled race is one of the big sporting events of the winter. Held annually on Washington's Birthday it attracts entries from all over that section of the State. All the bobsleds are of the same general type: a long board cleated to two sleds; the rear sled fastened solidly, the front sled on a swivel. The steersman guides his racer with his feet on the crosspiece bolted to the front sled's runners and the ropes at the crosspiece's ends. Eight people compose the crew, the heavier the better, naturally, for weight makes for speed.

This year, even, the Duluth Sporting Club was sending down a team of huskies to compete in the event. There would be two other entries beside the home sled from Powder River. And that sled was to be steered by John Groff.

All four sleds would start even. Fifty yards back of the starting line there would be seven people on each sled, the eighth standing ready to push his sled over the line for a running start; leaping on the rear end of the sled as it crossed the line.

From the starting line was the two mile descent of the Hilltop Road to the schoolhouse; then a quarter of a mile of smooth, almost level ground to the finish line. A sled had to be traveling fast at the gentle schoolhouse turn to carry on at great speed clear to the judges at the finish. But seventy, even eighty miles an hour was no unusual speed in that last run to the schoolhouse turn.

A fast start was a distinct advantage, and the sled that got first to the starting line and crossed that line with all its crew aboard was extremely fortunate. For though the Hilltop Road was wide enough there at the starting line to accommodate four sleds abreast, the course quickly narrowed; and a sled which held squarely to the middle of the road was difficult to pass. The strongest, huskiest man of the crew was generally, therefore assigned to the rear seat where, in addition to giving the sled a mighty run and shove that should shoot it on its flight, he could drag a foot to serve as a brake or to assist the steersman in swooping round a stiff turn. Eve Carew's brother, Sherman, a hundred and seventy pounder from the high school, was to serve as end man of John Groff s sled; while Eve—

But that didn't develop until the night before the race.

They had all been down on the lower reaches of the Powder River, skating. Tommy Evans had supplied his father's car, and was suffered as a transportation medium. Across the field to the bank of the moon-silvered river he had been permitted to carry Eve's skating shoes. But John Groff had put them on that young lady's pretty silk feet, and laced them up. Two bonfires, roaring merrily, threw crimson splotches across the crisp, clean snow. Above in the open sky a million stars twinkled like specks of diamond dust. The ice sang the song of the skates.

Someone had brought a banjo. The "plunk- plunk-plunk-plunka-plunk" of a racy waltz sounded clear through the dead stillness of the winter country. Grabbing partners, the young people had begun to dance. John Groff with Eve, of course. Tommy Evans, tripping over the toe of his own hockey skate had arrived half a second too late— and flat on his stomach, skidding across the ice. And that's no way to approach a young lady for the pleasure of the next dance. Tommy went back to the shore and the bonfires. He didn't even have his "eating" tobacco with him. Perhaps that was just as well. In his mortification he'd probably have swallowed it.

Dancing palled. And suddenly Tommy noticed that Eve Carew, a black, graceful figure was skimming off downstream. Patiently, faithfully he got to his feet and slid off in pursuit; though he was already far behind the crowd. But almost immediately he caught them; for they had all, sliding sharply sideways, come to an abrupt stop. Only Eve had dashed ahead.

"Look out! That's thin there!" It was Groffs bass voice, raised suddenly in alarm.

"Come back, Eve!" commanded her brother Sherman.

But Eve did not come back. Straight ahead she whizzed, straight for a film of blacker ice but barely covered a short stretch of fast-running water. Before she actually realized her danger she was safe across.

"Well, of all the darn fool flappers!" snorted brother Sherman, disgust battling with relief. Eve, fifty yards away, had stopped on secure footing.

"Bet nobody else dares!" she taunted.

Nobody stirred. John Groff and Sherman Carew, football heavyweights, were not going to trust their bulk on any such fool venture, that was certain. There was no sense in such dare-deviltry, anyhow.

"Dare—dare—double-dare!" the little vixen challenged.

Nobody moved.

"Let a girl stunt you! Oh, John—oh, Sherman!"

"Come back here, you nut," ordered brother Sherman, unromantically; "but come round on the edge of the ice where it's stronger."

"Doesn't anybody dare?" was the only answer. Then, as the moonlight revealed Tommy Evans, the temptress sang: "Oh, Tommy—come on, Tommy."

Instantly Tommy started. Jumping up onto his toes for a flying start he took half a dozen strokes. The ice sank, then heaved, beneath him. He spun about; came back. "Not me," he growled.

"Come on—come on—Tommy," then the culminating insult—not from Eve, she was really too decent for that—but from some timid skulker in the rear rank of the skaters: "Doesn't dare. Girlie doesn't dare!"

The fact that the anonymous jeerer didn't dare himself meant nothing to Tommy Evans. He burned with shame. Slowly, setting his teeth, he rose on his skate points for the wild dash.

But he never made it. Out ahead of him went a big, dark bulk. With tremendous strides the huge skater came to the thin ice's ledge—swept across. John Groff had dared, while Tommy was still deliberating. But behind the bold John the thin ice had cracked to long fissures; given way. Dark water flooded out over the more solid footing. Now, whether he dared to or not, Tommy Evans would not cross that "tickly-bender."

It was three in the afternoon.

Most of the county were assembled down near the schoolhouse where the trestle bridge came across the chasm, or were stretched out along the quarter-mile straightaway that ran to the finish line. The Powder River race was about to be run.

Up at the starting point were only the judges and the actual contestants—and Tommy Evans. He'd not been allowed to take a place on John Groff s sled, though he'd almost begged for the privilege. "Too light, son," Groff had patronized.

But Tommy knew that that was merely an excuse. For at the last moment, only half an hour before, in fact, he'd learned that some one even lighter than he was to ride on the Power River sled. The rules did not forbid women riding—but—

Last year there had been two broken legs and a broken wrist when the Valleyville sled ran wild into the woods. The year before a Duluth man had suffered a fractured skull, and never completely recovered. It was no sport for girls.

Yet, without saying anything to the committee, a girl had been chosen to ride John Groff's bobsled.

And when Tommy had learned that Eve was to risk her pretty neck—well—he'd followed her. That's all.

He stood now, stamping in the snow and trying to keep warm, for the thermometer was ten above zero. The four bobsleds were already at their places, fifty yards back of the red tape laid across the white road as a starting line. Three crews were all ready to take their places.

But of the home crew but five were present. John Groff, owner and steersman of the home sled had not yet arrived with Eve and her brother Sherman. The judges at the start looked impatiently at their watches. Tommy, off on the bank to one side, stamped miserably. It was time to go.

The sound of a car was heard, it came in sight. John Groff and another figure; but only one other figure. "Where the devil—" began one of the waiting five. But already the car had come up and John Groff was tumbling out, followed by a slight figure in knickerbockers, white sweater and tight- buttoned Norfolk jacket.

"Sherman missed his train from town," growled Groff morosely. "Can't you wait a half hour."

"Can't be done," said the starter shortly. And his voice permitted no appeal.

"Hum." Groff shrugged. "Have to go with seven, then; but its the devil of a handicap." Inwardly, he was wishing now that he hadn't been so sentimental as to allow Eve a place on his sled. She was light enough, in all conscience, and now to start almost two hundred pounds short of the other teams—Groff said a whole lot more, under his breath.

"Ready?" snapped the starter. "Get on your sled, Groff."

It was just then that Groff saw Tommy. "Hop on," he said.

It was as if someone had suddenly shoved a long thin icicle down Tommy Evans' back. He shivered involuntarily. He looked once down the long, icy, serpentine hill. Then he stepped forward.

"Wh-wh-wh-where do you w-w-w-want me to ride?" he chattered. He damned himself for chattering; but he couldn't help it. He was cold, himself icy, all through.

"Back o' me. Right in front o' Eve," growled John Groff. "And hang on tight, son. Ready, sir," to the starter.

Groff had taken his place at the front of the sled. He sat erect, leaning a trifle backward. His feet were on the crosspiece of the front sled's runners, the strong ropes wound round his hands. By his own skill and strength he must guide that flying sled down its two-mile course. Upon him, and him alone, depended everything.

Tommy Evans crawled in behind, his arms about Groff's waist. And behind him, soft and warm was the form of Eve Carew. She had to hang on to him—that was Tommy's only solace.

"Oh; I'm so thrilled!" she breathed into his ear. Her whispering lips touched his cheek. And then Tommy was afraid no longer. He hadn't even noticed that they were off; hadn't noticed that the red tape had swept beneath them.

The wind was whistling by, snow chipped his face, as Tommy realized that their bobsled was slightly in the lead down the first steep slope. The big chap at the rear must have given them a splendid shove-off. For, out of the tail of his eye, Tommy could just see the frontrunners of another sled at the right; and Tommy was the second on the Powder River bobsled. Only a two-yard advantage, perhaps; but any advantage at all was precious as they ran swiftly toward the narrower section of the descent. The sled that got the middle track there, would be hard to pass. Twisting about, Tommy saw that the other two entries were a full length behind, boxed by the two leaders.

"Don't wriggle!" roared Groff, not turning. "Sit tight!"

Tommy felt shamed. Wriggling, of course, while he gripped Groff so tightly, would throw the steersman off his direction. He half-expected a rebuke from Eve, there so close behind him, too. But she was as motionless as if frozen.

But now, with its far greater weight, the other sled had drawn up almost level. It was the Duluth entry, in their Scotch caps and plaid Mackinaws. The big steersman was by Tommy's side, so close that their elbows nearly touched. To the very bottom of the straight run they held the same position.

Now they were coming to the twisting run through the forest. On either side snowy tree trunks and great, icy boulders hemmed in the course. And already they must have been whizzing along at close to sixty miles an hour. The first wide turn was to the left. Tommy felt big Groff s body tauten.

"Left!" roared the steersman. As one body the seven on the Powder River sled leaned over. The bobsled took the curve skimmingly, flying along on one runner.

That turn had been to their advantage. The other sled was on the outside. The Duluth steersman disappeared from Tommy's field of vision; and, mindful of the first warning, there was no looking back.

Lord! How they were traveling now! Past them the snowy rocks flashed like a single rough-hewn wall; the trees were blurred and shadowy. Eve Carew's head was pressed into his shoulder, her face hidden for shelter from the bitter blast. But Tommy scorned to duck behind Groff s big body; he kept his eyes hard on the snow path, though the tears sprang and rolled, freezing down his raw cheeks. Ahead the road curved to the right—almost a blind turn.

Tommy felt Groff twist. The steersman was watching his rivals. What if he did have to cut across them? That was their lookout! Together they all leaned to the turn.

A hoarse, angry roar rose behind them. There was the scuffle of hard-dragging feet. Careless of danger, John Groff had cut the corner sharply, right under the bow of the Duluth crew. They'd had to slow up to prevent jamming him. But Groff didn't care. He was now a full length to the good. That was all part of the game, just as in automobile racing. Take the middle of the road: and hold it—if you can. "Hold hard!" roared Groff.

They had come to the series of "thank-you- ma'ams," those treacherous road drains.

Whiz-z-z—the sled went straight out into the air. Thump! The seven on the Powder River sled clung desperately. It seemed as if their flying steed would never right itself, careening crazily from one side to the other. That was the sort of thing that tested a steersman's metal! Whiz-z-z—Thump! Whiz-z-z—Thump! They were over. And still the Duluth sled had not come alongside. Quarter of a mile more and they would be at the schoolhouse. Then the swift sweep out across the open.

A curve—they whirled around it. One more "thank-you-ma'am," one more tremendous bump. They hit it: they sailed up into the air!

And suddenly Tommy pitched forward. The place ahead of him was empty!

The bobsled struck. Tommy, sprawled flat, gripped madly at the runners of the sled for support. Instantly he understood what had happened. John Groff had, somehow, been pitched off!

Then as the wild sled slewed and skidded, Tommy saw that the steering ropes to the runners had parted. He never knew just what happened then. But the fact was that he, lying there flat on his stomach, had his hands on the solid crosspiece. Marvelously the sled answered his touch!

They were back in the course again. And— Great Scott—how they were flying. Behind him somebody gripped his waist in a clutch of a maniac. That would be Eve, of course, pitched off balance and hanging on as best she could. No time to think of Eve, though, now! Eve had suddenly become unimportant.

For upon Tommy Evans—Girlie Evans—rested the safety of the whole crew. And he was not in the least frightened. He knew he'd come through.

Vaguely he wondered about the Duluth sled. He couldn't know then that they had also succumbed to the menace of that last perilous bump, had skidded harmlessly off the track—and out of the race—into an enormous snowdrift. All he knew, at the moment, was that he must guide that whirling sled. And he didn't have far to go. The schoolhouse was two hundred yards ahead, to the right. The road curved to the right there, too. That he must manage to take that curve was evident; for straight ahead was the chasm of the Powder River, spanned by that narrow, single-track trestle. If the sled got out of control—

But it wouldn't get out of control. He'd darn well see to that. Delicately testing its ease of handling, Tommy was surprised to discover how readily the sled steered. At this great speed, and with its relatively light weight forward, the bobsled answered his gripping fingers almost as smoothly as would a delicately controlled motor car. Tommy felt a quick rush of triumph, of power. He—he— Girlie Evans—the butt of the children, the jest of his fellow boys and girls—was going to pilot home the victor.

Briefly, he wondered what Eve was thinking. Certainly, and this he knew for her fingers bored into his body, she was hanging on desperately enough. Lead him over thin ice, would she! Laugh at him, would she! Call him—

And in that instant his whole body tensed. It seemed as if his heart rose to strangle him!

For directly ahead, spilling out into the snowy roadway, came a flock of tiny black figures. The children were pouring from the schoolhouse. And he was going a mile a minute!

He was not a hundred yards away—three seconds, and less, to decide.

Ahead, and to the right, was the comparatively soft snow. But ahead and to the right were twenty or thirty little children. Even if they did see him could they dodge in time? To the left was hard, frozen, glare ice. And beyond that the steep chasm of the Powder River!

"Jump!" screamed Tommy, twisting his head over his shoulder. And swung his sled hard to the left, out—straight out across the glittering sheet of ice toward the cañon.

Himself, though, he did not jump. And behind him he knew that Eve stuck with him.

Before the schoolhouse the scared children had huddled back upon the doorstep. The two trailing sleds, halted as quickly as might be, were emptied of their crews, men running out to watch the catastrophe. Up from the straightaway came the crowd, gasping with horror. Men shouted aimlessly, hoarsely. But the flying sled was gone, disappeared, it seemed, over the lip of the abyss. And with it the boy and the girl.

Slowly, from the glare ice where they had leaped, the four men who had jumped attempted to raise themselves. All were hurt, one badly, both legs broken. But the spectators gave them, for the instant, but little attention. They rushed on to the chasm's rim.

It was just at this point that the single-track railroad ran on its fragile trestle across the gulch. Practically abandoned, only two trains a day used this right of way, and along the open cross-ties between the rusty iron rails the snow and ice had caked into a broken pathway. There was no guard rail. An average man, lying crossways, could have hung hands and feet on either side of the trestle— five feet wide it was, not more.

Below, sixty feet below, the wild stream no cold could cover ran free over jagged boulders, here black with deeper waters, here white with foam and spray that glistened in stalactite shapes along its vertical banks.

Yet the first comers peered in vain for the wreckage. Down there in the chasm was nothing, save snow, and ice, and wild-churning waters.

And suddenly someone cheered.

For out there, almost in the middle of the narrow trestle; out there with not a foot to spare on either side; out there with death to right and left of them were two figures—and a bobsled. By some miracle Tom Evans had steered his racer straight out along that shivering span of safety. He was rising now, intent on his treacherous footing. Still on one knee, he raised his arm to wave. His other arm held the girl's figure.

They saw him bend.

"Hurt, Eve? Hurt?" He was whispering, alarmed at her limp silence, at her closed eyes. For a moment he was puzzled. She had clung tight to him all the way; she couldn't be hurt. And then realization came to him, amazingly—Eve Carew had fainted!

Out along the trestle, careless of danger, a dozen men were running. They reached the boy and girl, crowded up to them.

"Girlie! Are you all right, girlie?"

Tommy started abruptly. That name! Did any one dare—now—

But Sherman Carew was merely speaking to his sister. "Girlie," said Sherman to Eve.

Slowly she opened her eyes, found who was holding her. "Tommy!" she smiled.

And Tommy Evans knew, in that instant, that no one would ever again call him Girlie.