By OWEN JOHNSON
Author of "The Prodigious Hickey," "Stover at Yale," "The Humming Bird," "Tennessee Shad," etc.
WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS BY F. R. GRUGER
A. L. BURT COMPANY PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY THE BAKER & TAYLOR COMPANY
Published, July, 1910
THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.
Alexander Lambert, M.D.
IN FRIENDSHIP, IN GRATITUDE, AND IN MEMORY OF MY WIFE.
When young Stover disembarked at the Trenton station on the fourth day after the opening of the spring term he had acquired in his brief journey so much of the Pennsylvania rolling stock as could be detached and concealed. Inserted between his nether and outer shirts were two gilt "Directions to Travelers" which clung like mustard plasters to his back, while a jagged tin sign, wrenched from the home terminal, embraced his stomach with the painful tenacity of the historic Spartan fox. In his pockets were objects—small objects but precious and dangerous to unscrew and acquire.
Being forced to wait, he sat now, preternaturally stiff, perched on a heap of trunks, clutching a broken dress-suit case which had been re-enforced with particolored strings.
There was about young Stover, when properly washed, a certain air of cherubim that instantly struck the observer; his tousled tow hair had a cathedral tone, his cheek was guileless and his big blue eyes had an upward cast toward the angels which, as in the present moment when he was industriously exchanging a check labeled Baltimore to a trunk bound for Jersey City, was absolutely convincing. But from the limit whence the cherub continueth not the imp began. His collar was crumpled and smutty with the descent of many signs, a salmon-pink necktie had quarreled with a lavender shirt and retreated toward one ear, one cuff had broken loose and one sulked up the sleeve. His green serge pockets bulged in every direction, while the striped blue-and-white trousers, already outgrown, stuck to the knees and halted short of a pair of white socks that in turn disappeared into a pair of razor-pointed patent-leathers.
Young Stover's career at Miss Wandell's Select Academy for boys and girls had been a tremendous success, for it had ended in a frank confession on Miss Wandell's part that her limited curriculum was inadequate for the abnormal activities of dangerous criminals.
As Stover completed the transfer of the last trunk-checks the stage for Lawrenceville plodded cumbrously up, and from the box Jimmy hailed him.
"Eh, there, young Sporting Life, bound for Lawrenceville? Step lively."
Stover swung up, gingerly pushing ahead of him the battered bag.
"Lawrenceville?" said the driver, looking at it suspiciously.
"Right the first time."
"Oh, the Green will be good enough for me."
"Well, tuck in above."
"Thanks, I'll cuddle here," said Stover, slipping into the seat next to him, "just to look over the way you handle the ribbons and see if I approve."
Jimmy, connoisseur of new arrivals, glanced behind at the only other passenger, a man of consular mould, and then looked at Stover in sardonic amusement.
"Don't look at me like that, old Sport," said Stover impressively; "I've driven real coaches, sixteen horses, rip-snorters, and all that sort of thing."
Jimmy, having guided the placid animals through the labyrinths of Trenton, gave them the rein on the long highway that leads to Lawrenceville and turned to examine Stover with new relish.
"Say, Bub," he said at length, "you're goin' to have a great time at this little backwoods school—you're going to enjoy yourself."
"Think I'm fresh, eh?"
"Fresh?" said Jimmy thoughtfully. "Why, fresh ain't at all the word."
"Well, I can take care of myself."
"What did they fire you for?" said Jimmy, touching up the horses.
"Who said they fired me?" said Stover, surprised.
"Well, what was it?" said Jimmy, disdaining an explanation.
"They fired me," said Stover, hesitating a moment—"they fired me for trying to kill a man."
"You don't say so!"
"I drew a knife on him," said Stover rapidly. "I'd 'a' done for him, too, the coward, if they hadn't hauled me off."
At this there was a chuckle from the passenger behind who said with great solemnity:
"Dear me, dear me, a dreadful state of affairs—quite thrilling."
"I saw red, everything—everything red," said Stover, breathing hard.
"What had he done to you?" said Jimmy, winking at Mr. Hopkins, alias Lucius Cassius, alias The Roman, master of the Latin line and distinguished flunker of boys.
"He insulted my—my mother."
"She—she's dead," said Stover in a stage voice he remembered.
At this Jimmy and Mr. Hopkins stopped, genuinely perplexed, and looked hard at Stover.
"You don't mean it! Dear me," said The Roman, hesitating before a possible blunder.
"It was long ago," said Stover, thrilling with the delight of authorship. "She died in a ship-wreck to save me."
The Roman was nonplussed. There was always the possibility that the story might be true.
"Ah, she gave her life to save yours, eh?" he said encouragingly.
"Held my head above water, breeches buoy and all that sort of thing," said Stover, remembering something in Dickens. "I was the only one saved, me and the ship's cat."
"Well, well," said The Roman, with a return of confidence; "and your father—is he alive?"
"Yes," said Stover, considering the distant woods; "but—but we don't speak of him."
"Ah, pardon me," said The Roman, gazing on him with wonder. "Painful memories—of course, of course. And what happened to your brother?"
Stover, perceiving the note of skepticism, turned and looked The Roman haughtily in the face, then, turning to Jimmy, he said in a half whisper:
"Who's the old buck, anyhow?"
Jimmy stiffened on the box as though he had received an electric shock; then, biting his lips, he answered with a vicious lunge at the horses:
"Oh, he comes back and forth every now and then."
They were now in the open country, rolling steadily past fields of sprouting things, with the warm scent of new-plowed earth borne to them on the gentle April breeze.
All of a sudden Stover seemed to dive sideways from the coach and remained suspended by his razor-tipped patent-leathers.
"Hi, there!" cried Jimmy, bringing the coach to a stop with a jerk, "what are you trying to do?"
"Seeing if there are any females inside."
"What's that to you?" said Jimmy indignantly.
"Keep your eye peeled and I'll show you," said the urchin, standing up, freeing his belt and unbuttoning his vest. In a moment, by a series of contortions, he drew forth the three signs and proudly displayed them.
"See these gilt ones," he said confidentially to the astounded Roman, "got 'em in the open car; stood right up and unscrewed them—penal offense, my boy. The tin one was easier, but it's a beaut. 'No loitering on these premises.' Cast your eye over that," he added, passing it to The Roman, who, as he gravely received it, gave Jimmy a dig that cut short a fit of coughing.
"Pretty fine, eh?" said Stover.
"Em, yes, quite extraordinary—quite so."
"And what do you think of these?" continued Stover, producing two silver nickel-plated knobs ravished from the washbasin. "'Pull and Push'—that's my motto. Say, Bill, how does that strike you?"
The Roman examined them and handed them back.
"You'll find it rather—rather slow at the school, won't you?"
"Oh, I'll put ginger into it."
"What's your line of goods, old Sport?" said Stover, examining Mr. Hopkins with a knowing eye.
"Books," said The Roman with a slight jerk of his thin lips.
Jimmy stopped the horses and went behind, ostensibly to see if the door was swinging.
"Let me drive?" said Stover, fidgeting after a moment's contemplation of Jimmy's method. "I'll show you a thing or two."
"Oh, you will, will you?"
"Let's have 'em."
Jimmy looked inquiringly at Mr. Hopkins and, receiving a nod, transferred the reins and whip to Stover, who immediately assumed a Wild West attitude and said patronizingly:
"Say, you don't get the speed out of 'em."
"I don't, eh?"
They were at that moment reaching the brink of a hill, with a sharp though short descent below.
"In my country," said Stover professionally, "we call a man who uses a brake a candy dude. The trick is to gallop 'em down the hills. Hang on!"
Before he could be stopped he sprang up with an ear-splitting war-whoop and brought the whip down with a stinging blow over the ears of the indignant horses, who plunged forward with a frightened leap. The coach rose and rocked, narrowly missing overturning in its sudden headlong course. Jimmy clamped on the brakes, snatched the reins and brought the plunging team to a stop after narrowly missing the gutter. Stover, saved from a headlong journey only by the iron grip of The Roman, had a moment of horrible fear. But immediately recovering his self-possession he said gruffly:
"All right, let go of me."
"What in blazes were you trying to do, you young anarchist?" cried Jimmy, turning on him wrathfully.
"Gee! Why don't you drive a couple of cows?" said Stover in disgust. "Why, in my parts we alway drive on two wheels."
"Two wheels!" said Jimmy scornfully. "Guess you never drove anything that did have four wheels but a baby-buggy."
But Stover, as though discouraged, disdained to reply, and sat in moody silence.
The Roman, who was still interested in a possible brother or two, strove in vain to draw him out. Stover wrapped himself in a majestic silence. Despite himself, the mystery of the discoverer was upon him. His glance fastened itself on the swelling horizon for the school that suddenly was to appear.
"How many fellows have you got here?" he said all at once to Jimmy.
"About four hundred."
"As much as that?"
"When do we see the school?"
"Top of next hill."
The Roman watched him from the corner of his eye, interested in his sudden shift of mood.
"What kind of a football team did they have?" said Stover.
"Scored on the Princeton 'Varsity."
"Jemima! You don't say so!"
"Eight to four."
"Only game they lost."
"The Princeton championship team, too," said Stover, who was not deficient in historical athletics. "Say, how's the nine shaping up?"
"It's a winner."
All at once Jimmy extended his whip. "There it is, over there—you'll get the water tower first."
Stover stood up reverentially. Across the dip and swell of the hills a cluster of slated roofs, a glimpse of red brick through the trees, a touch of brownstone, a water tower in sharp outline against the sky, suddenly rose from the horizon. A continent had been discovered, the land of possible dreams.
"It's ripping—ripping, isn't it?" he said, still standing eagerly.
The Roman, gazing on it for the thousandth time, shook his head in musing agreement.
Across the fields came the stolid ringing of the school bell, ringing a hundred laggards across the budding campus to hard seats and blackboarded walls, ringing with its lengthened, slow-dying, never-varying note.
"That the bell?" said Stover, rebelling already at its summons.
"That's it," said Jimmy.
Stover sat down, his chin in his hands, his elbows on his knees, gazing eagerly forward, asking questions.
"I say, where's the Green House?"
"Ahead on your left—directly."
"That old, stone, block-house affair?"
"Why, it's not on the campus."
"No, it ain't," said Jimmy, flicking the flies off the near horse; "but they've got a warm bunch of Indians all the same." Then, remembering the Wild-Western methods of driving, he added: "Don't forget about the ginger. Sock it to them. Fare, please."
"I'll sock it," said Stover with a knowing air. "I may be tender, but I'm not green."
He slapped a coin into the outstretched hand and reached back for the battle-scarred valise, to perceive the keen eye of Mr. Hopkins set on him with amusement.
"Well, Sport, ta-ta, and good luck," said Stover, who had mentally ticketed him as a commercial traveler. "Hope you sell out."
"Thanks," said Mr. Hopkins, with a twitch to his lip. "Now just one word to the wise."
"Don't get discouraged."
"Discouraged!" said Stover disdainfully: "Why, old Cocky-wax, put this in your pipe and smoke it—I'm going to own this house. In a week I'll have 'em feeding from my hand."
He sprang down eagerly. Before him, at the end of a flagged walk, under the heavy boughs of evergreens, was a two-story building of stone, and under the Colonial portico a group curiously watching the new arrival.
The coach groaned and pulled heavily away. He was alone at the end of the interminable stone walk, clutching a broken-down bag ridiculously mended with strings, face to face with the task of approaching with dignity and ease these suddenly discovered critics of his existence.
In all his fifteen years Stover had never been accused of standing in awe of anything or anybody; but at the present moment, as he balanced from foot to foot, calculating the unending distance of the stone flags, he was suddenly seized with an overpowering impulse to bolt. And yet the group at the steps were only mildly interested. An urchin pillowed on the knees of a Goliath had shifted so as languidly to command the approach; a baseball, traveling back and forth in lazy flight, had stopped only a moment, and then continued from hand to hand.
Stover had thought of his future associates without much trepidation, as he had thought of the Faculty as Miss Wandell in trousers—being inferior to him in mental agility and resourcefulness who, he confidently intended, should shortly follow his desires.
All at once, before he had spoken a word, before he had even seen the look on their countenances, he realized that he stood on the threshold of a new world, a system of society of which he was ignorant and by whose undivined laws he was suddenly to be judged.
Everything was wrong and strangely uncomfortable. His derby hat was too small—as it was—and must look ridiculous; his trousers were short and his arms seemed to rush from his sleeves. He tried desperately to thrust back the cuff that had broken loose and stooped for his bag. It would have been wiser to have embraced it bodily, but he breathed a prayer and grasped the handle. Then he started up the walk; half way, the handle tore out and the bag went down with a crash.
He dove at it desperately, poking back the threatened avalanche of linen, and clutching it in his arms as a bachelor carries a baby, started blindly for the house.
A roar of laughter had gone up at his discomfiture, succeeded by a sudden, solemn silence. Then the White Mountain Canary pillowed against the knees of Cheyenne Baxter, spoke:
"No old clothes, Moses; nothing to sell to-day."
At this Butsey White's lathery face suddenly appeared at the second-story window.
"He doesn't want to buy—he wants to sell us something," he said. "Patent underwear and all that sort of thing."
Stover, red to the ears, advanced to the steps and stopped.
"Well?" said the Coffee-colored Angel as the guardian of the steps.
"I'm the new boy," said Stover in a gentle voice.
"The new boy."
"New boys always say 'sir,' and take off their hats politely."
The White Mountain Canary looked at Tough McCarty, who solemnly interrogated the Coffee-colored Angel, who shook his head in utter disbelief and said:
"I don't believe it. It's a blind. I wouldn't let him in the house."
"Please, sir," said Stover hastily, doffing his derby, "I am."
"Prove it," said a voice behind him.
"Say, I'm not as green as all that."
Stover smiled a sickly smile, shifted from foot to foot and glanced hopefully at his fellow-imps to surprise a look of amusement. But as every face remained blank, serious and extremely critical, the smile disappeared in a twinkling and his glance went abruptly to his toes.
"He certainly should prove it," said the Coffee-colored Angel anxiously. "Can you prove it?"
Stover gingerly placed the gaping valise on the top step and fumbled in his pockets.
"Please, sir, I have a letter from—from the Doctor," he blurted out, finally extracting a crumpled envelope and tendering it to the Coffee-colored Angel, who looked it over with well-simulated surprise and solemnly announced:
"My goodness gracious! Why, it is the new boy!"
Instantly there was a change.
"Freshman, what's your name?" said little Susie Satterly in his deepest tones.
"What's your full name?"
"John Humperdink Stover, sir."
"Say it again."
"Say it for me," said the Coffee-colored Angel, with his hand to his ear.
"Accent the last syllable."
"Are you trying to bluff us, Freshman?" said Cheyenne Baxter severely.
"No, sir; that's my real name."
"Well, Rinky Dink, you've got a rotten name."
"Yes, sir," said Stover, who never before had felt such a longing to agree.
"One hundred and thirty, sir."
"Ever been in love?"
"Ever served a penal sentence?"
"Then where did you get these clothes?"
The group slowly circulated about the embarrassed Stover, scanning the amazing costume. Cheyenne Baxter took up the inquisition.
"Say, Dink, honest, are these your own clothes?" he said with a knowing look.
"Now, honest," continued Cheyenne in a whisper, bending forward and putting his hand to his ear as though inviting a confidence.
Stover felt suddenly as though his own ears were swelling to alarming proportions—swelling and perceptibly reddening.
"What do they feed you on, Rinky Dink?" said the White Mountain Canary softly.
"Feed?" said Stover unwarily, not perceiving the intent of the question.
"Do they give you many green vegetables?"
Stover tried to laugh appreciatively, but the sound fizzled dolefully out.
"Because, Dink," said the White Mountain Canary earnestly, "you must not eat green vegetables, really you must not. You're green enough already."
"Why did they fire you?" said Tough McCarty.
Stover raised his eyes instinctively. There was a new accent to the inquisition, different from all the other questions he had run. He looked at Tough McCarty's stocky frame and battling eyes, and suddenly knew that he was face to face with a human being between whom and himself there could never be a question of compromise or quarter.
"Well, Freshman," said McCarty impatiently.
"What did you ask me?" said Dink purposely.
"What did they fire you for?"
"They fired me," began Stover slowly, and then stopped to reconsider. The story he had told on the coach, somehow, did not seem quite in place here. The role of firebrand and hothead, drawing villainous knives on frightened boys, would not quite convince his present audience. To tell the truth was impossible—to admit himself the product of Miss Wandell's and coeducation would be fatal—and likewise the truth was, in his philosophy (and be this remembered), only a lazy expedient to a man of imagination. So he said slowly:
"They fired me for bringing in a couple of rattlesnakes and—and assaulting a teacher."
"My! You are a bad man, aren't you?" said Tough McCarty seriously. "I'm afraid you're too dangerous for the Green, Dink. Really I do."
"He does look devilishly wicked, Tough."
"Assaulting a teacher—how broo-tal."
"Why, Rinky Dink," said the Coffee-colored Angel sadly, "don't you know that was very wicked of you? You should love your teachers."
Stover suddenly perceived that his audience was unsympathetic.
"Don't you know you should love your teachers?"
Stover essayed a grin, then looked at the ground and stirred up a stone with his foot.
"So you're fond of rattlesnakes?" said McCarty, persisting.
"I was brought up with them," said Stover, trying to fortify his position.
"You don't mean it," said McCarty, looking hard at Baxter. "Cheyenne, he's just the man to train up that little pet rattler of yours."
"Just the thing," said Cheyenne instantly; "we'll let him take out the fangs."
Stover smiled a superior smile; he was not to be caught on such tales.
"What are you smiling at, Freshman?" said McCarty immediately.
Butsey White, at the second-story window, scanning the road, perceived Mr. Jenkins approaching, and announced the fact, adding:
"Send him up; he belongs to me."
"Make a nice bow, Freshman," said McCarty. "Take your hat off, keep your heels together. Oh, that wasn't a very nice bow. Try again."
At this moment Jimmy, returning on the stage, reined in with a sudden interest. Stover hastily executed a series of grotesque inclinations and, grasping the clumsy valise, disappeared behind the door, hearing; as he struggled up the stairs, the roar from without that greeted his departure.
"The freshest of the fresh."
"Green all over."
"Will we tame him?"
"And Butsey's got him."
As Stover reached the head of the stairs a door was thrown open and Butsey White appeared in undress uniform. The next moment Stover found himself in a large double room gorgeously decorated with flags, pennants, sporting prints and souvenirs, while through the open window came a grateful feeling of quiet and repose.
Butsey White, a roly-poly, comical fellow of sixteen or seventeen, with a shaving-brush in one hand, held out the other with an expression of lathery solicitude.
"Well, Stover, how are you? How did you leave mother and the chickens? My name's White. Mr. White, please. I'm most particular."
"How do you do, Mr. White?" said Stover, recovering some of his composure.
"There's your kennel," said Butsey White, indicating the bed. "The washtrough's over here. Bath's down the corridor. Do you snore?"
"What?" said Stover, taken back.
"Oh, never mind. If you do I'll cure you," said White encouragingly. "What did they fire you for?"
Stover, smarting at his humiliation below, seized the opportunity for revenge.
"They fired me for drinking the alcohol out of the lamps," he said with his most convincing smile.
Butsey White, who had returned to the painful task of shaving, suddenly straightened up and extended the deadly razor in angry rebuke.
"There's a little too much persiflage around here," he said sternly. "We don't like it. We prefer to see young, unripe freshmen come in on their tiptoes and answer when they're spoken to. Young Stover, you've got in wrong. You're just about the freshest cargo we've ever had. You've got a lot to learn, and I'm going to start right in educating you. Savez?"
"It was only a joke," said Stover, looking down.
"A joke! I'll attend to any joking around here," said Butsey, with a reckless wave of his razor. "There may be a few patent, nickel-plated jokes roaming around here, soon, you hadn't thought of. Now, what did they fire you for?"
"They fired me for kissing a teacher."
"The drawing teacher," said Stover hastily, perceiving the danger of the new assertion.
The old boy looked at him hard, gave a sort of grunt and, turning his back, took up again the interrupted task of shaving. Stover, a little dismayed at his own audacity, sought to conciliate his future roommate.
"Mister White, I say, where'll I stow my duds?"
"I'm sorry—I didn't mean to be fresh. Which is my bureau?"
The razor, suddenly extended, pointed between the windows. Stover, crestfallen, hastily sorted out the contents of his bag and silently ranged collars and neckties, waiting hopefully for a word. Suddenly he remembered the properties of the Pennsylvania Railroad and, sorting out the signs, he advanced on Butsey White, saying:
"I brought these along—thought they might help decorate the room, Mr. White."
Butsey White gazed at the three stolen signs and grunted a somewhat mollified approval.
"Got anything else?"
"A couple of sporting prints coming in the trunk, sir."
"You want to get everything you can lay your hands on when you go home. Now run on down and report to Fuzzy-Wuzzy—Mr. Jenkins. He'll be waiting for you. After lunch I'll take you up to the village and fit you out."
"I say, that's awfully good of you."
"Oh, that's all right."
"Say, I didn't mean to be fresh."
"Well, you were."
White, having carefully noted the ravages of the razor, turned from the looking-glass and surveyed the penitent Stover.
"Well, what did they fire you for?" he said point-blank.
"They fired me——" began Stover slowly, and stopped.
"Out with it," said Butsey militantly.
But at that moment the voice of Mr. Jenkins summoned Stover below, and left the great question unanswered.
The interview with the house master was not trying. Mr. Jenkins was a short, fuzzy little man, who looked him over with nervous concern, calculating what new strain on his temper had arrived; introduced him to Mrs. Jenkins, and seized the occasion of the luncheon-bell to cut short the conversation.
At lunch Stover committed an unpardonable error which only those who have suffered can understand—he sent his plate up for a second helping of prunes.
"What in the name of peanuts did you do that for?" said Butsey in a whisper, while the Coffee-colored Angel jabbed him with his elbow and trod on his toes. "Now you have put your foot in it!"
Stover looked up to behold every countenance grim and outraged.
"What's wrong?" he said in a whisper.
"Wrong? Didn't you ever have prunes and skimmed milk before, thousands and thousands of times?"
"You don't like 'em, do you?"
"Why, I don't know."
"Do you want to have them five times a week—in springtime?"
The plate, bountifully helped, returned from hand to hand down the table, laden with prunes and maledictions.
"I didn't know," Stover said apologetically.
"Well, now you know," said the Coffee-colored Angel vindictively, "don't you so much as stir 'em with your spoon. Don't you dare!"
Stover, being thus forbidden, calmly, wickedly, chuckling inwardly, emptied his plate, smacked his lips and exclaimed:
"My! those are delicious. Pass my plate up for some more, will you, Mr. White?"
"Now, why did you do that?" said Butsey White when they were alone in their room.
"I couldn't help it. I just couldn't help it," said Stover ruthfully. "It was such a joke!"
"Not from you," said Butsey White with Roman dignity. "You've got the whole darn house down on you already, and the Coffee-colored Angel will never forgive you."
"Just for that?"
Butsey White disdained an answer. Instead, he scanned Stover's clothes with critical disfavor.
"Say, if I'm going to lead you around by the hand you've got to come down on that color scheme of yours, or it's no go."
Stover, surprised, surveyed himself in the mirror.
"Why, I thought that pretty fine."
"Say, have you got a pair of trousers that's related to a coat?"
Stover dove into the trunk and produced a blue suit that passed the censor, who had in the meanwhile confiscated the razor-tipped patent-leathers and the red-visored cap, saying:
"Now you'll sink into the landscape and won't annoy the cows. Stick on this cap of mine and hoof it; you're due at the Doctor's in half an hour, and I promised old Fuzzy-Wuzzy to show you the lay of the land and give you some pointers."
Outside, Cheyenne Baxter, who was pitching curves to Tough McCarty, stopped them:
"Hello, there, Rinky Dink: turn up here sharp at four o'clock."
"What for—sir," said Stover, surprised.
"We've got a game on with the Cleve. Play baseball?"
"I—I'm a little out of practice," said Stover, who loathed the game.
"Can't help it; you're it. You play in the field. Four o'clock sharp."
"You're the ninth man in the house," Butsey explained as they started for the school. "Every one has to play. Are you any good?"
Stover was tempted to let his imagination run, but the thought of the afternoon curbed it.
"Oh, I used to be pretty fair," he said half-heartedly, plunging into the distant past.
But Stover had no desire to talk; he felt the thrill of strange sensations. Scarcely did he heed the chatter of his guide that rattled on.
The road lay straight and cool under the mingled foliage of the trees. Ahead, groups of boys crossed and recrossed in lazy saunterings.
"There's the village," said Butsey, extending his hand to the left. "First bungalow is Mister Laloo's, buggies and hot dogs. There's Bill Appleby's—say, he's a character, rolling in money—we'll drop in to see him. Firmin's store's next and the Jigger Shop's at the end."
"The Jigger Shop!" said Stover, mystified. "What's that?"
"Where they make Jiggers, of course."
"Oh, my beautiful stars, think of eating your first Jigger!" said Butsey White, the man of the world. "What wouldn't I give to be in your shoes! I say, though, you've got some tin?"
"Sure," said Stover, sounding the coins in his change pocket.
Butsey's face brightened.
"You see, Al has no confidence in me just at present. It's a case of the regular table d'hote for me until the first of the month. Say, we'll have a regular gorge. It'll be fresh strawberry Jiggers, too."
They began to pass other fellows in flannels and jerseys, who exchanged greetings.
"Hello, you, Butsey!"
"Why, Egghead, howdy-do?"
"Ah, there, Butsey White!"
"See you later, old Sport."
"Four o'clock sharp, Texas."
Under the trees, curled in the grass, a group of three were languidly working out a Greek translation.
"Skin your eyes, Dink," said Butsey White, waving a greeting as they passed. "See the fellow this side? That's Flash Condit."
"The fellow who scored on the Princeton Varsity?"
"Oh, you knew, did you?"
"Sure," said Stover with pride. "Gee, what a peach of a build!"
"Turn to your left," said Butsey suddenly. "Here's Foundation House, where the Doctor lives. Just look at that doorway. Wouldn't it give you the chills?"
They were in front of a red-brick house, hidden under dark trees and overgrown with vines that congregated darkly over the porte-cochere and gave the entrance a mysterious gloom that still lives in the memory of the generations.
"It swallows you up, doesn't it?" said Dink, awed.
"You bet it does, and it's worse inside," said Butsey comfortingly. "Come on; now I'll show you the real thing."
They passed the surrounding trees and suddenly halted. Before them the campus burst upon them.
"Well, Dink, what do you think of that?" said Butsey proudly.
Stover plunged his hands in his trousers pockets and gazed awed. Before him extended an immense circle of greensward, dotted on the edge with apple trees in blossom, under which groups of boys were lolling, or tumbling over one another in joyous cublike romping. To the left, across the circle, half a dozen red-coated, slate-topped, portly houses, overgrown with ivy, were noisy with urchins hanging out of myriad windows, grouped on steps, chasing one another in twisting spirals over the lawns. Ahead, a massive brownstone chapel with pointed tower rose up, and to its right, in mathematical bulk, was the abode of Greek and Latin roots, syntax and dates, of blackboards, hard seats and the despotism of the Faculty. To the right, close at hand, was a large three-storied building with wonderful dormer windows tucked under the slanted slate roof, and below was a long stone esplanade, black with the grouped figures of giants. At the windows, propped on sofa cushions, chin in hand some few conned the approaching lesson, softening the task by moments of dreamy contemplation of the scuffle below or stopping to catch a tennis ball that traveled from the esplanade to the window. Meanwhile, a constant buzz of inquiry and exclamation continued:
"Say, Bill, how far's the advance?"
"Middle page ninety-two."
"Gee, what a lesson!"
"You bet—it's tough!"
"Hi, there, give me a catch."
"Look out! Biff!"
"Oh, you, Jack Rabbit, come up and give me the advance!"
"Can't. I'm taking my chances. Get hold of Skinny."
"What time's practice?"
"That's the Upper House, House of Lords, Abode of the Blessed," said Butsey with envious eyes. "That's where we'll land when we're fifth-formers—govern yourself, no lights, go to the village any time, and all that sort of thing. Say!" He swept the circle comprehensively with his arm. "What do you think of it? Pretty fine, eh—what?"
"Gee!" said Stover with difficulty, then after a moment he blurted out: "It's—it's terrific!"
"Oh, that's not all; there's the Hammil House in the village and the Davis and Rouse up the street. The baseball fields are past the chapel."
"Why, it's like a small college," said Stover, whose gaze returned to the giants on the esplanade.
"Huh!" said Butsey in sovereign contempt. "We'll wipe up anything in the shape of a small college that comes around here! Do you want to toddle around the circle?"
"Oh, Lord, no!" said Stover, cold at the thought of running the inspection of hundreds of eyes. "Besides, I've got to see the Doctor."
"All right. Stand right up to him now. Don't get scared," said Butsey, choosing the one method to arouse all latent fears.
"What's he like?" said Stover, biting his nails.
"There's nothing like him," said Butsey reminiscently. "He's got an eye that gives you the creeps. He knows everything that goes on—everything."
Stover began to whistle, keeping an eye on the windows as they approached.
"Well, ta-ta! I'll hang out at Laloo's for you," said Butsey, loping off. "Say, by the way, look out—he's a crackerjack boxer."
Stover, like AEneas at the gates of Avernus, stood under the awful portals, ruminating uneasily on Butsey's last remark. There certainly was something dark and terrifying about the place, that cast cold shadows over the cheery April day. Then the door opened, he gave his name in blundering accents to the butler, and found himself in the parlor sitting bolt-upright on the edge of a gilded chair. The butler returned, picking up his steps and, after whispering that the Doctor would see him presently, departed, stealing noiselessly away. Abandoned to the classic stillness, nothing in the room reassured him. The carpets were soft, drowning out the sounds of human feet; the walls and corridors seemed horribly stilled, as if through them no human cry might reach the outer air. All about were photographs of broken columns—cold, rigid, ruined columns, faintly discerned in the curtained light of the room. The Doctor's study was beyond, through the door by which the butler had passed. Stover's glance was riveted on it, trying to remember whether the American Constitution prohibited head masters from the brutal English practice of caning and birching; and,—listening to the lagging tick of the mantel clock, he solemnly vowed to lead that upright, impeccable life that would keep him from such another soul-racking visit.
The door opened and the Doctor appeared, holding out his hand.
Stover hastily sprang up, found himself actually shaking hands and mumbling something futile and idiotic. Then he was drawn to the horror of horrors, and the door shut out all retreat.
"Well, John, how do you like the school?"
Stover, more terrified by this mild beginning than if the Doctor had produced a bludgeon from behind his back, stammered out that he thought the buildings were handsome, very handsome.
"It's a pretty big place," said the Doctor, throwing his nervous little body back in an easy chair and studying the four-hundred-and-second problem of the year. "You'll find a good deal in it—a great many interests."
"He certainly has a wicked eye," thought Stover, watching with fascination the glance that confronted him like a brace of pistols suddenly extended from under shaggy bushes. "Now he's sizing me up—wonder if he knows all?"
"Well, John, what was the trouble?" said the Doctor from his easy, reclining position.
"The trouble, sir? Oh," said Stover, sitting bolt-upright with every sinew stiffened. "You mean why they fired—why they expelled me, sir?"
"Yes, why did they fire you?" said the Doctor, trying to descend.
"For getting caught, sir."
The Doctor gazed at him sharply, seeking to determine whether the answer was from impertinence or fright or a precocious judgment of the morals of the nation. Then he smiled and said:
"Well, what was it?"
"Please, sir, I put asafetida in the furnace," said Stover in frightened tones.
"You put asafetida down the furnace?"
"That was a very brilliant idea, wasn't it?"
"No, sir," said Stover, drawing a long breath and wondering if he could possibly stay after such a confession.
"Why did you do it?"
Stover hesitated, and suddenly, yielding to an unaccountable impulse toward the truth that occasionally surprised him, blurted out:
"I did it to make trouble, sir."
"You didn't like the school?"
"I hated it! There were a lot of girls around."
"Well, John," said the Doctor with heroic seriousness, "it may be that you didn't have enough to do. You have evidently an active brain—perhaps imagination would be a fitter word. As I said, you'll find this a pretty big place, just the sort of opening an ambitious boy should delight in. You'll find here all sorts of boys—boys that count, boys you respect and want to respect you, and then there are other boys who will put asafetida in the furnace if you choose to teach them chemistry."
"Oh, no, sir," said Stover, all in a gasp.
"Your parents think you are hard to manage," said the Doctor, with the wisp of a smile. "I don't. Go out; make some organization; represent us; make us proud of you; count for something! And remember one thing: if you want to set fire to Memorial Hall or to dynamite this study do it because you want to, and not because some other fellow puts it into your head. Stand on your own legs." The Doctor rose and extended his hand cordially. "Of course, I shall have my eye on you."
Stover, dumbfounded, rose as though on springs. The Doctor, noticing his amazement, said:
"Well, what is it?"
"Please, sir—is that all?"
"That's all," said the Doctor seriously.
Stover drew a long breath, shook hands precipitately and escaped.
The spell was still on him as he stumbled over the resounding steps. But, twenty feet from the door, the spirit of irreverence overtook him. Then, at the thought of the waiting Butsey, he began to pipe forth voluminously the martial strains of Sherman's March to the Sea, kicking enormous pebbles victoriously before him.
Butsey White, sitting on the doorstep of Laloo's, gazed at him from the depths of a steaming frankfurter sandwich.
"Well, you look cheerful," he said in surprise.
"How was he?"
"Gentle as a kitten."
"Come off! Were you scared?"
"Scared! Lord, no! I enjoyed myself."
"You're a cheerful liar, you are. What did he say to you?"
"Hoped I'd enjoy the place and all that sort of thing. And—oh, yes, he spoke about you."
"He did, did he?" said Butsey, precipitately leaving the frankfurter sandwich.
"He hoped I'd have a good influence on you," said Stover, whose imagination had been too long confined.
Butsey rose wrathfully, but the answer he intended could not be made, for, reckoning on his host, he was already in his third frankfurter, and there was the Jigger Shop yet to be visited.
"Dink, if you ever have to tell the truth," he said, "it'll kill you. Come in and meet Mr. Laloo."
Mr. Laloo was leaning gratefully on the counter—as, indeed, he was always leaning against something—his legs crossed, lazily plying the afternoon toothpick.
"Laloo, shake hands with my friend, Mr. Stover," said Butsey White professionally. "Mr. Stover's heard about your hot dogs, way out in California."
Laloo transferred the toothpick and gave Stover his hand in a tired, unenthusiastic way.
"Well, now, they do be pretty good hot dogs," he drawled out. "Suppose you want one?" He looked at Stover in sleepy reproachfulness, and then slid around the counter in the shortest parabola possible.
"Pick him out a nice, young Pomeranian," said Butsey, peering into the steaming tin.
Laloo forked a frankfurter, selected a roll and looked expectantly at Stover.
"What's the matter?" said Dink, mystified.
"Mustard or no mustard?" Butsey said in explanation. "He likes to talk, but the doctor won't let him."
"I'll have all that's coming to me," said Dink loudly.
A second later his teeth had sunk into the odorous mass. He shut his eyes, gazed seraphically at the smooty ceiling and winked at Butsey.
"Umm?" said Butsey.
"Isn't he the fancy young dog-catcher?"
"Well, I should rather!" said Dink, lost in the vapors. "I say, have another?"
"Thanks, old chap, but I had a couple while you were chucking the Doctor under the chin," said Butsey glibly. "Save up now; we've got a couple more places to visit."
"How much?" said Dink.
Laloo, who was reclining against the nearest wall, elevated four fingers and gazed out the window.
"Four!" said Stover.
"One and three."
"Three!" said Butsey in feigned surprise. "Oh, come, I didn't eat three—well, I never; what do you think of that?"
Dink rubbed his ear thoughtfully, looked hard at Butsey and paid. Laloo followed them to the door, leaned against the jamb and gazed down the road.
"Now for Bill Appleby's," said Butsey cheerily. "He's rolling—rolling in wealth. We'll go in later for lamps and crockery and all that sort of thing. I thought we might sort of wash down the hot dogs before we go up to the Jigger Shop—eh, what?"
In Appleby's general merchandise store Stover gravely shook hands with a quick, business-like little man with a Western mustache, a Down-East twang and a general air of being on the trigger.
"Well, Bill, how's business?" said Butsey affably, nudging Stover.
"It's bad, boys, it's bad," said Bill mournfully.
"Bad, you old robber," said Butsey; "why, that little iron safe of yours is just cracking open with coin. How's the rootbeer to-day?"
"It's very nice, Mr. White. Just come in this morning."
"Yes, it did! Bet it came in with the Ark," said Butsey, to Stover's great admiration. "Well, are you going to set us up to a couple of bottles, or have we got to pay for them?"
"We've got some very fine Turkish paste, Mr. White," said Bill, producing the rootbeer.
"Well?" said Butsey, looking at Stover.
"I'd like to show you some of our new crockery sets, Mr. Stover," said Appleby softly. "Just come in this morning. Want a student's lamp?"
"No time now, Bill," said Butsey, hastily consulting the clock. "See you later."
Other groups came in; Appleby moved away. Stover, quenching the hot dogs in rootbeer, heard again the opening salutations:
"Well, Bill, how's business?"
"It's bad, Mr. Parsons. It's bad."
"Well, Bill, ta-ta," said Butsey, as they moved off. "Seen Doc Macnooder this morning?"
"No, Mr. White, I haven't saw him to-day."
"Always make him answer that," said Butsey chuckling, "and always ask him about business. We all do. It's e-tiquette. There's Firmin's," he said, with a wave of his hand—"post-office, country store, boots and shoes and all that sort of thing. And here's the Jigger Shop!"
Stover had no need of the explanation. Before a one-story, glass-fronted structure a swarm of boys of all ages, sizes and colors were clustered on steps and railings, or perched on posts and backs of chairs, all ravenously attacking the jigger to the hungry clink of the spoon against the glass. They elbowed their way in through the joyous, buzzing mass to where by the counter, Al, watchdog of the jigger, scooped out the fresh strawberry ice cream and gathered in the nickels that went before. At the moment of their arrival Al was in what might be termed a defensive formation. One elbow was leaning on the counter, one hand caressed the heavy, drooping mustache, one ear listened to the promises of a ravenous, impecunious group, but the long, pointer nose and the financial eyes were dreamily plunged on the group without.
"Gee, did you ever see such an eye?" said Butsey, who had reasons of his own for quailing before it. "It's almost up to the Doctor's. You can't fool him—not for a minute. Talk about Pierpont Morgan! Why, he knows the whole blooming lot of us, just what we're worth. Why, that eye of his could put a hole right through any pocket. Watch him when he spots me." Pushing forward he exclaimed: "Hello, Al; glad to see me?"
Al turned slowly, fastening his glance on him with stony intentness.
"Don't bother me, you Butsey," he said shortly.
"Al, I've sort of set my sweet tooth on these here strawberry jiggers of yours."
The Guardian of the Jigger made a half motion in the air, as though to brush away an imaginary fly.
"Two nice, creamy, double strawberry jiggers, Al."
Al's eyes drooped wearily.
"My friend, Mr. Vanastorbilt Stover, here's setting up," said Butsey in conciliating accents.
The eyes opened and fastened on Stover, who advanced saying:
"Ring a couple of dimes down, Astorbilt," said Butsey. "Al's very fond of music."
"Give me change for that," said Stover, rising to the occasion with a five-dollar bill.
"And, for the love of Mike, hustle 'em," said Butsey White. "I've only got a second."
The shop began to empty rapidly as the hour of the two o'clock recitation neared. Stover gazed into the pink, fruity depths of his first strawberry jigger, inserted his spoon gingerly and took a nibble. Then he drew a long, contented breath, gazed into the land of dreams, and gave himself up to the delights of a new, of an incomparable sensation.
Butsey White, gobbling against time, flung out occasional, full-mouthed phrases:
"Got to run—'xcuse us—jemima! Isn't it the stuff—see you at three—better bring some back in box—don't tell any one, though—especially the Coffee-colored Angel."
Across the fields the bell suddenly, impatiently, brutally clanged out. With a last convulsive gulp Butsey White finished his glass, and burst from the shop in the helter-skelter company of the last laggards. Stover, left alone, looked inquiringly at Al.
"Recitation," said Al. "They've got a two-twenty sprint before the bell stops. We're out of hours, now, except for the Upper House."
"Meaning me?" said Stover, rising.
"Sit where you are," said Al. "You're all right for to-day. Where do you hang out?"
"Green House," said Dink, who, beginning to feel hungry, ordered another jigger and selected a chocolate eclair.
"You're not rooming with Butsey White?"
"You are?" said Al pityingly. "Well, just let me give you one word of advice, young fellow. Sew your shirt to your back, or he'll have it off while you're getting into your coat."
"I wasn't born yesterday," said Dink impudently, gesturing with his spoon. "And I rather fancy I'm a pretty cute little proposition myself."
"If any of these smart Alecs can get the best of me," said Dink grandiloquently, egged on by the other's tone of disbelief, "he'll have to get up with the chickens!"
"All clear," said the Tennessee Shad from the window.
"All's well on the Rappahannock," returned the scout at the door.
Macnooder, with a well-executed double shuffle, the Tennessee Shad, with a stiff-jointed lope of his bony body, advanced and shook hands.
"Al, we come not to take your hard-earned money, but do you good," said Macnooder as usual, genially shaking an imaginary hand.
The Tennessee Shad camped on the back of a chair, drew up his thin, long legs, laid one bony finger against a bony nose and looked expectantly at Macnooder.
Meanwhile Al, without turning his back, carefully moved over to the glass counter that sheltered appetizing trays of eclairs, plum cakes and cream puffs and, whistling a melancholy note, locked the door, scanned the counter, and placed a foot on the cover of the jigger tub.
Doc Macnooder, whose round, bullet head and little rhinoceros eyes had followed the hostile preparation, said sorrowfully:
"Al-bert, your conduct grieves us."
"Go ahead, now," said Al in a tired voice.
"Go ahead?" said Macnooder, looking in surprise at the equally impassive Tennessee Shad.
"What's the flimflam to-day?"
"Al," said Macnooder, in his most persuasive tones, "you wrong me. My motives are honorable. At four o'clock this very afternoon Turkey Reiter will proceed to cash a check and settle for a fountain pen, a pair of suspenders and a safety razor I sold him. Just trust me till then—will you?"
"Nothing doing," said Al.
"Honor bright, Al!"
"You must trust me till then."
Al, producing a patent clipper, began to pare his nails.
"Won't you trust me?"
"Don't make me laugh!"
"Al's right, Doc," said the Tennessee Shad, entering the discussion. "You ought to put up some guarantee."
Al slowly turned his gaze on the Tennessee Shad and waited hopefully for the real attack.
"Well, what?" said Macnooder.
"How about your watch?"
"You haven't got a stick-pin on you?"
"Left 'em at home—never thought Al would go back on me."
"That's a very nice spring coat you've got on," said the Tennessee Shad, as though struck by an inspiration. "Why don't you put that up for a couple of hours?"
"Not on your life," said Macnooder indignantly. "This coat's brand new, worth thirty dollars."
Al, suddenly shifting, leaned forward, both elbows on the counter, and studied the coat with a reminiscent air.
"Oh, put it up," said the Tennessee Shad.
"Never. I've got associations about this coat and, besides, I've got to make a swell call in Princeton to-morrow."
"What's the diff?" said the Tennessee Shad, yawning. "It's only a couple of hours; and you know you said you were going to clean off the whole slate with Al, sure as Turkey boned up."
Macnooder seemed to hesitate.
"It's idiotic to put up a real, high-life coat for a couple of jiggers."
"Hurry up; I'm hungry."
"Stop," said Al, drawing back satisfied. "I wouldn't bother about that coat if I were you."
"Why not?" exclaimed the two partners.
"'Cause I remember that coat gag now," said Al with a far-off look. "I bit once—way back in '89. It's a good game, specially when the real owner comes ramping in the next day."
"What do you mean?" said Doc Macnooder indignantly.
"I mean that it don't button, you young pirate," said Al scornfully, but without malice. "When you try anything as slick as that again you want to be sure the real owner ain't been around. That coat belongs to Lovely Mead."
Doc Macnooder looked at the Tennessee Shad.
"Have we really got to pay for them?" he said mournfully.
"Looks that way."
"Oh, well," said Doc, slapping down a quarter, "fill 'em up."
Al heaped up the glasses, adding an appreciative extra dab with the magnanimity of the victor, and said:
"Say, you boys want to rub up a little. Here's Stover, over there, just come. He's about your size."
The Tennessee Shad and Doc Macnooder about faced and stared at Stover, who all the while had remained in quiet obscurity, dangling his legs over the counter.
"Just come, Stover?" said Macnooder at last.
"On the noon stage?"
"Why, shake, then, brother," said the Tennessee Shad, offering his hand. "Shake hands with Doc Macnooder."
Doc Macnooder grasped his hand with extra cordiality, saying:
"Green House, sir," said Stover, awed by the sight of a 'varsity jersey. "I'm rooming with—with Mr. White."
"What'll you have?"
"I beg pardon."
"What'll you have?"
"Why," said Stover, quite taken back by the offer, "I think it's up to me, sir."
"Rats!" said Macnooder. "If you've been in tow of Butsey, I'll bet you've been paying out all day. Butsey White's a low-down, white-livered cuss, who'd take advantage of a freshman. Step up."
"I'll have another one of these," said Stover gratefully, feeling his heart warm toward the unexpected friends.
"Bet Butsey's stuck you pretty hard," said the Tennessee Shad, nodding wisely. "He's just loaded with the spondulix, too."
"Well, he did sort of impose on me," said Stover, thinking of the frankfurters at Laloo's.
"It's a shame," said Macnooder indignantly.
"You're pretty slick?"
"As slick as they make 'em."
"Say, bub," said Al, with his dreamy drawl, "is this the line of talk you've been putting out to that bunch of Indians down in the Green?"
"Oh, I'll put it out."
"Say, you're going to have a wonderful time here!"
"Watch me," said Dink, cocking his head; but with less confidence than when he had announced his intentions on the stage-coach.
"Young fellow," said Al, leaning back and looking at him from under his eyelids, "you're in wrong. You don't know what you've come to. Why, there's a bunch of young stock jobbers around here that would make a Wall Street bunco-steerer take to raising chickens! Slick? Why, some of 'em are so slick that when they come in I lock the cash drawer and stuff cotton in my ears."
"Bring 'em on," said Dink disdainfully.
At this moment there was a loud flop by the window in the rear, and the Tennessee Shad rose slowly from the floor. At the same moment Doc Macnooder, ambling innocently by on the farther sidewalk, turned, dashed across the street, bounded into the shop and, returning to the door, carefully surveyed the approaches.
"Glad to do it," said Macnooder, without enthusiasm. "Finish up and we'll fit you out in a jiffy."
When the three went shuffling down the street Al did an unusual, an unprecedented thing. He actually made the turn of the counter and stationed himself at the door, watching the group depart—Macnooder with his arm on Stover's shoulder, the Tennessee Shad guarding the other side.
When they disappeared beyond Bill Orum's, the cobbler's, in the direction of the Dickinson, he said slowly, in profound admiration:
"Well, I'll be jiggered! If those body-snatchers don't get electrocuted, they'll own Fifth Avenue!"
"Come up to my room and we'll see what's on hand," said Doc, entering the Dickinson. "Too bad you're stuck down in the Green—no house spirit there—you must get in with us next year."
"Doc's a great fellow," said the Tennessee Shad, as Macnooder went quickly ahead, "a great business man. He's a sort of clearing house for the whole school. Say, he's taken a regular fancy to you."
"What did he get his 'L' for?" said Stover, as the Tennessee Shad, to gain time, showed him the lower floor.
"Quarter on the eleven last fall. Here's the Triumphant Egghead's room. Isn't it a peach? They've got a good crowd here; you must be with them or us next year. Here's Turkey Reiter's and Butcher Stevens' quarters. They're crackerjacks, too; on the eleven and the nine. Come on, now. We'll strike Doc. You know he studies medicine and all that sort of thing. Wait till I give the countersign. Doc's most particular."
Stover found himself in a den, a combination of drug-store, taxidermist's shop and general warehouse. All about the room were ranged an extraordinary array of bottles—green bottles that lurked under the bed, red, blue and white bottles that climbed the walls and crowded the mantelpiece, tops of bottles that peered out of half-opened boxes, all ticketed and mustered in regiments. From the ceiling a baby alligator swung on a wire, blinking at them horribly with shining glass eyes; a stuffed owl sat in one corner; while opposite, a muskrat peered into a crow's nest. The closet and all available floor space were heaped high with paper boxes and wooden cases, while over all were innumerable catalogues.
"Pretty fine, isn't it?" said the Tennessee Shad.
"It's wonderful," said Stover, not quite at ease.
"It's not bad," said Doc. "I'd like to have a nice, white skeleton over there in that corner; but they're hard to get, nowadays. Now let's get down to business. Sit down."
Stover took the only chair; the Tennessee Shad curled up languidly on the bed, after brushing aside the debris; while Macnooder, perched on a drygoods box, poised a pencil over a pad of paper.
"You want a crockery set, first; a student lamp, and an oil can to keep your oil in."
"Especially the can," said the Tennessee Shad gravely. "Better get a padlock with it, or the whole Green House will be stealing from you."
"I don't know whether I have a can on hand," said Macnooder anxiously. "But here's a lamp."
He placed a rather battered affair in the middle of the floor, saying:
"It's a little squee-geed, but you don't care about looks. They ask you all kinds of prices for them when they're new; but you can have this for two-twenty-five. There's a bite out of the shade, but you can turn that side to the wall. They're rather hard to get second hand."
"All right," said Stover.
"Better light it up first," said the Tennessee Shad professionally.
"That's business-like," said Macnooder, who lit a match and, after an unsuccessful attempt, said: "There's no oil in it. Still, if Stover wants——"
"Never mind that," said Stover loudly, to show his confidence.
"Now for the toilet set."
"Say, how about the can?"
"Oh, the can. Let me look," said Macnooder, disappearing among the packing boxes in the closet.
"You want that," said the Tennessee Shad confidentially.
"Hope he's got one," said Stover.
Macnooder reappeared with an ordinary kerosene can and a padlock, announcing:
"This is the only one I've got on hand. It's my own."
"Let him have it," said the Tennessee Shad. "No one can get in here; you're always locked and bolted."
"How does it work?" said Stover, interested.
"The spigot is plugged up and the top cover is padlocked to the side. See? Now no one can get it. I don't particularly care about selling it, but if you want it take it at one-twenty-five."
"That's too much," said the Tennessee Shad. "One plunk's enough."
"You're paying cash?" said Macnooder, considering.
"Sure!" said Stover.
"Well, call it one bone, then."
Stover looked gratefully at the Tennessee Shad, who winked at him to show him he was his friend.
"Now, about a crockery set," said Macnooder, scratching his head. "I've got two, plain and fancy, what we call a souvenir set—but you wouldn't understand that. I'll show you the regular kind."
"What's a souvenir set?" said Dink, mystified.
"Oh, it's a sort of school fad," said the Tennessee Shad, as Doc disappeared. "Every piece is different, collected from all sorts of places—swap 'em around like postage stamps, don't you know. We've got rather tired of the ordinary thing, you know."
"Say, that's a bully idea," said Dink, whose imagination was appealed to.
"Some of the fellows have perfect beauts," said the Tennessee Shad, yawning; "got at hotels, and house parties, and all that sort of thing."
"Why, that beats hooking signs all hollow," said Dink, growing enthusiastic.
"I didn't know you'd be interested," said the Tennessee Shad carelessly. "Like to see one?"
"You bet I would."
"I say, Doc, old boy," said the Tennessee Shad; "bring out the souvenir set, too, will you, like a good fellow?"
"Wait till I get this out," said Macnooder, who, after much rummaging, puffed back with a blue-and-white set which he ranged on the floor.
"How's that appeal to you?" he said with a flourish of his hand. "Good condition, too; only the soap dish has a nick. You can have it for two-fifty."
But Dink had no eyes for the commonplace.
"Could I see the other," he said, "before I decide?"
Macnooder appeared loth to exert himself to no purpose.
"You wouldn't cotton to it, bub," he said, with a shake of his head.
"I'm not so sure about that," said the Tennessee Shad. "This chap's no bottle baby; he's more of a sport than you think. I'll bet you he's got a few swagger trophies, in the line of signs, himself."
"I've got two or three might strike your fancy," said Dink with a reckless look.
"Come on, Doc, don't be so infernally lazy. You're the deuce of a salesman. Out with the crockery."
"What's the use?" said Doc half heartedly, moving back into the litter of the closet.
"Don't get it unless you can afford it," said the Tennessee Shad in a friendly whisper.
When at length the souvenir set had been carefully displayed on the top of a box, cleared for the occasion, Stover beheld a green and white pitcher, rising like a pond lily from the depths of a red and white basin, while a lavender tooth mug, a blue cup and a pink soap dish gave the whole somewhat the effect of an aurora-borealis.
The Tennessee Shad sprang up and examined each piece with a connoisseur's enthusiasm. The lavender tooth mug, especially, attracted his curiosity. He looked it over, handled it gingerly, holding it to the light.
"Don't think this is up to the rest," he said finally, looking at Doc. "It's cracked."
"Suppose it is!" said Doc scornfully. "Do you know whose that is? That was swiped out of the set of Brother Baldwin."
"Fact. Last day of spring term, when he was giving a math exam."
"You don't say so!"
"What are the rest?" said Stover, wondering what sum could possibly compensate for such treasures.
"The rest are not so much; from the other houses, but they're good pieces. The water pitcher was traded by Cap Kiefer, catcher of the nine, you know. But there's one article," said Doc, pointing melodramatically, "that's worth the whole lot. Only I'll have to put you under oath—both of you."
The Tennessee Shad, puzzled, looked hard at Macnooder and raised his right hand. Stover, blushing, followed suit.
"That," said Macnooder, "came direct from Foundation House. That belonged to his Nibs himself!"
"Come off!" said the Tennessee Shad, not daring to look at Macnooder. "That's a bunco game."
"I didn't say it was swiped," said Macnooder indignantly. "Just give me a chance, will you? It was smashed up at the fire scare and thrown away with a lot of other things. Tough McCarty, down at the Green, I think, has got the slop jar."
"Excuses!" said the Tennessee Shad. "I did think for a moment you were trying to impose on my young confidence. Gee! Just think, of it! Cracky, what a prize! The Doctor himself—well—well! Say, I'd like to make a bid myself."
"It goes with the set," said Macnooder. "It ain't mine; I'm only getting the commission."
Stover, having caressed each article, drew a long breath and said falteringly:
"I suppose it comes pretty high!"
"Of course it's worth more than the other set."
"Oh, of course."
"The price set on it was four flat."
"That's a good deal of money," said the Tennessee Shad. "Specially when you've got to fit yourself out."
"Well, the other's cheaper at two-fifty," said Macnooder.
"Stover's sort of set his heart on this," said the Tennessee Shad. "Haven't you, Sport?"
Stover confessed that he had.
"Come on; make him a better price, Doc.".
"I'd have to consult my client."
"Well, consult your old client."
"Stand firm now," said the Tennessee Shad, "you can beat him down. Doc wants to make his commish. I tell you what I'd do if I were you."
"If I were looking for a real trophy I'd make him a bid on this. This is the best thing in the whole caboodle. Come over here. Say, just cast your eyes on this!"
Stover gazed in awe. On the wall, suspended on the red and black flag of the school, were a pair of battered and torn football shoes, while underneath was a photograph of Flash Condit and the score—Princeton 'Varsity, 8; Lawrenceville, 4.
"Gee!" said Stover. "He wouldn't sell those!"
"He might," said the Tennessee Shad. "Between you and me and the lamppost, Doc is devilishly hard up. Offer him a couple of dollars and see."
"The shoes that made the touchdown," said Dink reverentially. The Tennessee Shad did not contradict him.
Half an hour later Dink Stover sallied forth with the ecstasy of a collector who has just discovered an old master. Klondike Jackson, who shook up the beds at the Dickinson, preceded him, drawing in an express wagon the lamp, the padlocked kerosene can and the souvenir set, slightly reduced. Wrapped in tissue paper, tucked under Stover's arm, were the precious shoes, which he had purchased on the distinct understanding that Macnooder should have the right to redeem them at any time before the end of the term, on the payment of costs and fifty-per-cent interest. In Stover's pocket was a new fountain pen, a box of elastics, a pair of Boston garters and a patent nail clipper. Only the limits of his exchequer had prohibited his availing himself of the opportunity to purchase, at a tremendous bargain, a pair of snow-shoes, a tobogganing cap and a pair of corduroy trousers, slightly spotted.
Luckily for Dink, marching warily behind the vanguard, the three o'clock recitation had begun, and but a scattering of his schoolmates were abroad to witness his progress.
He arrived thus, virtually unnoticed, at the Green and, with the help of Klondike, arranged his possessions so as to make the greatest display.
He was standing in the middle of the floor, clutching the historic shoes and searching the walls for the proper place of honor, when Butsey White blew in.
"Where in thunder have you been?" he exclaimed, and then stopped at the sight of the twisted lamp. He looked at Dink, gave a grunt and examined the new purchase.
"Broken-winded, spavined, has the rickets—bet it leaks and won't burn. Where in——"
All at once he perceived the kerosene can, with its attached padlock.
"What's this thing?" he said, in genuine surprise, picking it up with two fingers and regarding it with a look of blank incomprehension.
"That's the safety can," said Stover, yielding to a vague feeling of uneasiness.
"That's a padlock."
"Why, for the kerosene."
"The kerosene for the lamp."
"Why, you nincompoop, we don't furnish the kerosene."
"We don't?" said Stover faintly, with a horrible sinking feeling. "Don't furnish the kerosene?"
"Who got hold of you?" said Butsey, too astounded to laugh.
"I met Macnooder——"
"And the Tennessee Shad, I'll bet my pants on it," said Butsey.
"What else did they unload on you?"
"Why—why, I bought a souvenir set."
"A souvenir toilet set."
Butsey wheeled to the washstand, uttered a shriek and fell in convulsions on the bed.
Stover stood stockstill, gazing in horror from the variegated crockery to Butsey, who was thrashing to and fro in hysterical flops, holding both the pillows where they would most ease the agony. Then, with a sudden deft movement, Dink dropped the historic shoes, sent them under the bed with a savage kick and, rushing to the window, threw the safety can into the tall grass of the fields beyond. Then he returned solemnly, sat down on the edge of the bed, took his head in his hands and began to do some rapid thinking. Butsey White, prone on the bed, burying his head in the covers, by painful degrees returned, gasping, to self-control.
"Mr. White," said Dink solemnly.
There was a slight commotion opposite and a hand fluttered beseechingly, while Butsey's weak voice managed to say:
"Take it away—take it away."
Dink rose and cast a towel over the set of seven colors, and then resumed his seat.
"It's all right; I've hidden it," he said.
Butsey rolled from the bed, tottered over to his own washstand and drank deeply from the water pitcher. Then he turned on the melancholy Stover.
"Go ahead! Soak it to me!"
"I thought you were old enough to go out alone."
"They lied to me," said Stover, kicking a chair.
"Say that again."
"They lied," repeated Dink, but with a more uncertain note.
"This from you!" said Butsey maliciously.
A great ethical light burst over Dink. He scratched his head and then looked at Butsey, grinning a sheepish grin.
"Well, I guess it was coming to me—but they are wonders!" he said, with reluctant admiration. "I'll take my medicine, but I'll get back at them, by jiminy! You see if I don't."
"For the love of Mike, give us the story!"
"You'll keep it twenty-four hours?"
"So help me——"
"I'm a sucker, all right," said Dink ruefully. Then he stopped and blurted out: "Say, White, I guess it was about what I needed. I guess I'm not such a little wonder-worker, after all. I've been fresh—rotten fresh. But, say, from now on I'm holding my ear to the ground; and when it comes to humbly picking up a few crumbs of knowledge you'll find me ready and willing. I'm reformed. Now, here's the tale:"
Dink, under the influence of the new emotion, made a fairly full confession, merely overlooking the shoes that Flash did not carry over the Princeton goal line, and suppressing that detail of the Foundation House's supposed contribution, which had lent such a peculiar value to the souvenir crockery set. By four o'clock Butsey White had sufficiently recovered to remember the afternoon baseball match.
Ten minutes later Dink, lost in a lapping baseball suit lent by Cheyenne Baxter, re-enforced with safety pins, stationed himself in the outfield behind a catcher's mitt, for preliminary practice with little Susie Satterly and Beekstein Hall, who was shortsighted and wore glasses.
The result of five minutes' frantic chasing was that Dink, who surprised every one by catching a fly that somehow stuck in his glove, was promoted to centerfield; Susie Satterly, who had stopped two grounders, took left; while Beekstein was ignominiously escorted to a far position in rightfield and firmly requested to stop whatever he could with his chest.
The Cleve cohorts arrived, thirty strong, like banditti marching to sack a city, openly voicing their derision for the nine occupants of the Green House. The contest, which at first sight seemed unequal, was not in reality so, Tough McCarty and Cheyenne Baxter being an unusually strong battery, while the infield, with Butsey White at first, the White Mountain Canary at second, Stuffy Brown short-stop and the Coffee-colored Angel at third, quite outclassed the invaders. The trouble was in the outfield—where the trouble in such contests are sure to congregate.
Stover had never been so thoroughly frightened in his life. His imagination, boylike, was aghast at the unknown. A great question was to be decided in a few minutes, when his turn would come to step up to the box and expose himself to the terrific cannonade of Nick Carter, the lengthy pitcher of the Cleve. The curious thing was that on this point Stover himself was quite undecided. Was he a coward, or was he not? Would his legs go back on him, or would he stand his ground, knowing that the stinging ball might strike anywhere—on the tender wrist bones, shattering the point of the elbow, or landing with a deadly thud right over his temple, which he remembered was an absolutely fatal spot?
His first two innings in the field were a complete success—not a ball came his way. With his fielding average quite intact he came in to face the crisis.
"Brown to the bat, Stover on deck, Satterly in the hole," came the shrill voice of Fate in the person of Shrimp Davis, the official scorer.
Stover nervously tried one bat after another; each seemed to weigh a ton. Then Cheyenne Baxter joined him, crouching beside him for a word of advice.
"Now, Dink," he said in a whisper, keeping his eye on Stuffy Brown, who, being unable to hit the straightest ball, was pawing the plate and making terrific preparatory swings with his bat. "Now, Dink, listen here. (Pick out an easy one, Stuffy, and bang it on the nose. Hi-yi, good waiting, Stuffy) Nick Carter's wild as a wet hen. All he's got is a fast outcurve. Now, what you want to do is to edge up close to the plate and let him hit you. (Oh, robber! That wasn't a strike! Say, Mr. Umpire, give us a square deal, will you?) Walk right into it, Dink, and if it happens to hit you on the wrist rub above the elbow like the mischief."
"Above the elbow?" said Dink in a hollow voice.
"That's it. You've got a chance to square yourself with the House. Step right into it. What? Three strikes? Say, Mr. Umpire, you're not taking Nick Carter's word for it, are you?"
Amid a storm of execrations Stuffy Brown retired, appealing frantically to the four quarters of the globe for justice and a judge.
Impelled by a resounding whack, Dink approached the plate as a balky horse tries his hoofs in a pool of water. He spread his feet and shouldered his bat, imitating the slightly-crouching position of Cheyenne Baxter. Then he looked out for a favorable opening. The field was thronged with representatives of the Cleve House. He turned to first base—it was miles away. He looked at Nick Carter, savagely preparing to mow him down, and he seemed to loom over him, infringing on the batter's box.
"Why the devil don't they stick the pitcher back and give a fellow a chance?" he thought, eying uneasily the quick, jerky preparations. "Why, at this distance a ball could go right through you."
"Come on, Nick, old boy," said a voice issuing from the iron mask at his elbow. "We've got an umpire that can't be bluffed. This is nothing but a Statue of Liberty. Chop him right down."
Dink shivered from the ground up, Carter's long arms gyrated spasmodically, and the ball, like the sweep of a swallow from the ground, sprang directly at him. Stover, with a yell, flung himself back, landing all in a heap.
"Ball one," said the umpire.
A chorus of taunts rose from the Green House nine.
"Trying to put him out, are you?"
"Put him out!"
"Good eye, Dinky!"
"That's the boy."
Stover rose, found his bat and ruthfully forced himself back to his position.
"I should have let it hit me," he said angrily, perceiving Baxter's frantic signals. "It might have broken a rib, but I'd have showed my nerve."
Clenching his bat fiercely he waited, resolved on a martyr's death. But the next ball coming straight for his head, he ducked horribly.
"Ball two—too high," said the umpire.
Stover tightened his belt, rapped the plate twice with his bat, as Butsey had done, and resumed his position. But the memory of the sound the ball had made when it had whistled by his ears had unnerved him. Before he could summon back his heroic resolves Carter, with a sudden jerk, delivered the ball. Involuntarily Stover stepped back, the ball easily and slowly passed him and cut the corner of the plate.
"Ball three," said the umpire hesitatingly.
The Cleve catcher hurled his mask to the ground, Carter cast down his glove and trod on it, while the second baseman fell on his bag and wept.
When order was restored Stover dodged the fourth wild ball and went in a daze to first, where to his amazement he was greeted with jubilant cheers.
"You're the boy, Dinky."
"You've got an eye like Charlie DeSoto."
"They can't fool Rinky Dink."
"Why, he's a wonder."
"Watch him steal second."
Stover slapped his foot on first base with the joy of unhoped-for victory. He glowered about his own possessions. The perspective had suddenly changed; the field was open, all his, the Cleve House representatives were a lot of dubs, butterfingers and fumblers, anyhow! Under Cheyenne Baxter's directions he went plunging down to second, slid, all arms and legs, safely on to the bag, thanks to a wild pitch, and rose triumphantly, blowing the dust from his mouth.
There he remained, as Susie Satterly and Beekstein methodically struck out.
But the joy of that double voyage was still on him as he went back to centerfield, ready to master the hottest liner or retrieve the sky-scraping fly. It was a great game. He felt a special aptitude for it and wondered why he had never discovered the talent before. He began to dream of sizzling two-baggers and long home-runs over the fence.
"I wish I'd get a chance," he said, prancing about digging vicious holes in the glove, that looked like a chest protector. "I'd show 'em what I can do out here."
But no chance came. The battle was between pitchers, and to the surprise of every one the Green House came up to the last inning with the score of 2 to 1 in their favor, the solitary run of the Cleve being due to a fly that Beekstein had failed to notice.
The Green House nine went jubilantly out into the field for the last half of the ninth inning, determined to shut out the Cleve and end the season with at least one victory.
Dink ran out on his tiptoes, encased himself in his mitt and turned, tense and alert. He had gone through his first ordeal triumphantly. No chances had come to him in the field, but at bat he had accidently succeeded in being hit, and though he had struck out the next time he had hit a foul and knew the jubilant feeling that came with the crack of the bat.
"Give me a week and I'll soak 'em out," he said, moving restlessly, and he added to himself: "Strike 'em out, Cheyenne, old man! They're easy."
But the Cleves suddenly woke up and began to fight. One man beat out a grounder, and one struck out; another error of the temperamental White Mountain Canary put a man on third and one on second. Then Cheyenne, pulling himself together, made his second strike-out.
"Two out, play for the batter," came Cheyenne Baxter's warning hallo.
"Two out," said Dink to his fellow-fielders. "One more and we spink 'em. Come on, now!"
Both sides settled for the final play, the man on second leading well up toward third.
"Steady!" said Cheyenne.
Stover drew in his breath and rose to his toes, as he had done thirty times already.
Suddenly there was a sharp crack, and the ball meeting the bat, floated fair and free, out toward centerfield.
Dink did not have to move a step; in fact, the ball rose and fell straight for the massive mitt as though it had chosen his glove from all the other gloves in the field. It came slowly, endlessly, the easiest, gentlest, most perfect fly imaginable, directly for the large brown mitt that looked like a chest protector.
Stover, turned to stone, saw it strike fair in the middle, and then, irresistibly, slowly, while, horribly fascinated, he stood powerless, slowly trickle over the side of the mitt and drop to the ground.
Dink did not stop for a look, for a second thought, to hesitate or to deliberate. He knew! He gave a howl and broke for the House, and behind him, pell-mell, shrieking and murderous, like a pack of hounds in full cry, came the vanquished, thirsting body of the Green.
He cleared the fence with one hand, took the road with two bounds, fled up the walk, burst through the door, jumped the stairs, broke into his room, slammed the door, locked it, backed the bed against it and seized a chair.
Then the Green House struck the door like a salvo of grapeshot.
"Open up, you robber!"
"Open the door, you traitor!"
"You Benedict Arnold!"
"Open up, you white-livered pup!"
Stover, his hair rising, seized the wooden chair convulsively, waiting for the door to burst in.
All at once the transom swung violently and the wolfish faces of Tough McCarty, the White Mountain Canary, Cheyenne and the Coffee-colored Angel crowded the opening.
"Get back or I'll kill you," said Dink in frantic fear, and, advancing, he swung the chair murderously. In a twinkling the transom was emptied.
The storm of voices rose again.
"The freshest yet!"
"The nerve of him!"
"Let's break in the door!"
"Come out, Freshman!"
"He did it on purpose!"
"He chucked the game!"
"Wait till I get my hands on him!"
"I'll skin him!"
All at once the face of Butsey White appeared at the transom.
"Dink, you let me right in, you hear?"
"You let me in right off!"
Still no answer.
"It's my room; you let me in to my room, do you hear?"
Stover continued silent.
"Dink," said Butsey in his loudest tones, "I'm coming right over the transom. Don't you dare to touch me!"
Stover again seized the chair.
Butsey White, supported from behind, carefully drew up one foot, and then convulsively disappeared as Stover charged with the chair.
There was a whispered consultation and then the battling face of Tough McCarty appeared with a new threat:
"You lay a hand on me and I'll rip the hide off you!"
"Keep back!" said Stover hoarsely.
"Put down that chair, you little varmint; do you hear me?"
"Don't you come over!"
"Yes, I'm coming over, and you don't dare to touch me. You don't——"
Stover was neither a coward nor a hero; he was simply in a panic and he was cornered. He rushed wildly to the breach and delivered the chair with a crash, Tough McCarty barely saving himself.
This open defiance of the champion angered the attacking party.
"He ought to be lynched!"
"Wait till to-morrow!"
Tough McCarty reappeared for a brief second.
"I'll get you yet," he said, pointing a finger at the embattled Stover. "You're a muff, a low-down muff, in every sense of the word!"
Then succeeded the Coffee-colored Angel:
"Wait till I catch you, you Rinky Dink!"
Followed the White Mountain Canary:
"You'll reckon with me for this!"
Down to Beekstein Hall, with his black-rimmed spectacles, each member of the outraged nine climbed to the transom and expressed his unflattering opinion.
Stover sat down, his chin in his hands, his eyes on the great, lumbering mitt that lay dishonored on the floor.
"I'm disgraced," he said slowly, "disgraced. It's all over—all over. I'm queered—queered forever!"
Until dusk, like Gilliatt in Victor Hugo's Toilers of the Sea, waiting for the tide to swallow him up, Stover sat motionless, brooding. There was only one thing to do—to run away. His whole career had been ruined in a twinkling. He knew. There could be no future for him in the school. What he had done was so awful that it could never be forgiven or forgotten. Why had he run? If only he had made a quick dive at the ball as it had trickled off the glove and caught it before it reached the ground, instead of standing there, horrified, hypnotized. Yes, he would escape, run off to sea somewhere—anywhere! But he wouldn't go home; no, never that! He would ship around the Horn, like the hero in that dreadful book, Two Years Before the Mast. He would run away that night, before the story spread over the whole school. He would never face them. He hated the school, he hated the Green, he hated every one connected with it!
A tap came on the door, and the voice of Butsey White said coldly:
"Open up! Fuzzy-Wuzzy's in the House; you're safe. Open up. I've got to get ready for supper."
Stover drew back the bed, unlocked the door and waited with clenched fists for Butsey to spring at him. Butsey White, whose tempestuous rage had long since spent itself in hilarious laughter, as, indeed, had been the case with the rest, thought it best, however, for the purposes of authority, still to preserve a grave face.
"You're a fine specimen!" he said curtly. "You've had a beautiful day of it."
"Yes, I have," said Dink miserably, "a beautiful day!"
Butsey, to whom the tragedy of the century was nothing but an incident, had not the slightest suspicion of Stover's absolute, overwhelming despair. Yet Butsey, too, had suffered, and profited by the suffering.
"You better square up with Tough McCarty," he said, failing to read the anguish in Stover's eyes. "You certainly were the limit."
"I hate him!" said Dink bitterly.
"He's a bully."
"Tough McCarty? Not a bit of it."
"He tried to bully me."
"Why didn't you let them in?" said Butsey, putting the part in the middle of his hair with a dripping comb.
"Let them in!"
"Why, what do you think they'd have done to you?"
Stover had never thought of that. After all, what could they have done to him?
"I didn't think——"
"Rats!" said Butsey. "They might have pied you on the bed; but that's nothing if you lie face down and keep your elbows in. That's all you'd have got. Then it would have been over; now you've got to square yourself. Well, brush up and come down to supper, and for the love of Mike smile a little."
Butsey White's sentiments neither consoled nor convinced. Stover was too firmly persuaded of the enormity of his offense and the depth of his ignominy.
In all his life he had never done a more difficult thing than to follow Butsey into the dining-room and face the disdainful glances of those from whom he had so lately fled.
He sat in abject mental and physical suffering, his eyes on his plate, tasting nothing of what went into his mouth, chewing mechanically.
Mr. Jenkins, to be affable, asked him how he had enjoyed the day. He mumbled some reply, he never knew what, hearing only the dreadful snicker that ran the table. He refused the dessert and left the table. It had been a nightmare.
He stayed in his room, watching from behind the curtains his fellow-beings romping and shrieking over a game of baby-in-the-hat. The bottom had, indeed, dropped out of things—the universe was topsy-turvy. More keenly than in the afternoon he felt the utter hopelessness of his disgrace. If he could only get away—escape from it all. If he only had had five dollars in his pocket he could have reached Trenton and worked his way to some seaport town. He looked at the now ridiculous souvenir toilet set and bitterly thought where the precious dollars had gone—that story, too, would be abroad by the morrow. The whole school would probably rise and jeer at him when he entered chapel the next morning. That night he crept into his bed to the stillness of the black room, to suffer a long hour that first overwhelming anguish that can only be suffered once, that no other suffering can compare to, that is complete, because the knowledge of other suffering has not yet come, and he who suffers suffers alone. Then the imagination came to the rescue. He fell into blissful unconsciousness by a process of consoling half dreams in which he vindicated himself by feats of extraordinary valor, carrying the suffocating Tough McCarty and the Coffee-colored Angel out of burning houses at the risk of his own life, and earning the plaudits of the whole school.
Suddenly a peal of thunder shook the building; he landed all in a heap in the midst of the sunlit floor, rubbing his eyes. Outside, the morning came in with warm embrace; green things stirred against the window-panes; the flash of a robin's wing cut a swift shadow on the floor and was gone. Below, the horrid clanging of the gong rattled the walls and called on the dead to rise.
Dink gazed at the opposite bed. Butsey, with the covers wound around him, with his knees under his chin, was actually asleep. In great alarm he went over and shook him gently. One eye opened and reproachfully fastened on him.
"I say, the gong—the gong's rung, Mr. White," said Dink.
"The rising gong?"
"Well, when the breakfast gong explodes wake me up."
The eyes shut, but presently reopened and a muffled voice added:
"Pour out water—washbasin—stick my shoes over here."
Dink obeyed, mystified. Then, going to the window, he drank in all the zest and glory of green fields and blue skies with woolly clouds drifting over the tingling air. Joyfully he turned for a plunge in cold water and the unspeakable crockery set met his eye. Then he remembered. A shadow fell across the room; the day went into eclipse. Mechanically, heavily, he dressed, and the fever of yesterday sprang up anew.
Meanwhile, not a sound in the House except down the hall a snore—a glorious, triumphant note. A second time the gong took up its discordant march. Then from the cocoon on the bed a flash of legs and arms sprang out and into the waiting garments. There was a splash in the basin that spattered the water far and near, and Butsey, enveloped in a towel, rushed into his upper garments, flung back his hair with a masterful swooping stroke of the comb, and bolted out of the door, buckling his belt and struggling into a sweater. Down the stairs they went in the midst of floating coats, collars to be buttoned and neckties to be tied; and when the last note of the gong had ended not a place was vacant, though every eye still drooped with drowsiness.
Breakfast over, Dink followed Butsey to their room and, after the more permanent preparations had been attended to, they left for chapel.
The much-dreaded breakfast had passed with but one incident; the Coffee-colored Angel, in passing him the sugar, had said in a terrific whisper:
"I'll get you to-day. I'll tame you!"
But, being still in a nodding state, his anger was contented with this slight expression. Tough McCarty had given him just one look, but somehow he remembered nothing else. The instinctive hostility he had felt at the first meeting of their eyes rose anew. The Coffee-colored Angel and the White Mountain Canary were but incidents; the enemy, le sacre Albion, was Tough McCarty.
He went in the current of boyhood past Foundation House and around the circle toward chapel. For the first time the immensity of the school was before him in the hundreds that, streaming across the campus in thin, dotted lines, swelled into a compact, moving mass at the chapel steps. It was more than an institution; it was a world, the complex, marvelously ordered World of Youth.
Somehow, he did not attract the attention he had expected. His entrance into the pew was attended by no hilarious uprising en masse. He found his place in the gallery, between Pebble Stone and Duke Straus, who sleepily asked his name and went off for a supplementary nap on the shoulder of D. Tanner. Stone evidently had heard nothing of his disgrace, or else was too absorbed in a hurried conning of the Latin lesson to make remarks.
Dink lifted his head a little and stole a glance—strange, no one seemed to be paying the slightest attention to him. Somewhat astonished and unutterably relieved he gazed down at the body of the school marshaled below, at the enormous fifth-formers who seemed—and never was that illusion to fade—the most terrifically immense and awesome representatives of manhood he had ever seen. The benches were hard, decidedly so; but he lost himself pleasantly in the vaulted roof, and gazed with respect at the distant pulpit.
The Doctor ascended and swept the school with that glance peculiar to head masters which convinces each separate boy it is directed at him. Stover felt the impact on his own forehead and dropped his eyes uneasily. When the hymn began he looked curiously among his classmates, located Doc Macnooder and caught the eye of the Tennessee Shad, who winked at him to show him he was still his friend.
Somehow, his awful disgrace seemed to slip from him—the Green House was but a grain in the sand. There were friends, undiscovered friends, in the mass before him, to be won and held. An easier feeling came to him. When the school shuffled out he sought the Tennessee Shad and, holding out his hand said:
"Say, you are wonders; and I'm the only living sucker!"
"Dink, you're a real sport," said the Tennessee Shad, pleased; "but we did come it pretty strong. Now, if you want to turn in those shoes——"
"Not on your life!" said Dink. "I deserved it, but—but look out for next year!"
"All right," said the Tennessee Shad with an approving look. "If you do us we'll take you into the firm. Tack on to me, and I'll pilot you to The Roman's."
Following his lanky guide Stover went in the churning, lagging mass across to Memorial Hall, rubbing elbows with the heroes, who stalked majestically in their voluminous bulk, with the coveted 'Varsity caps riding on the backs of their cropped heads, or being jostled by the freckled imps who ran zigzag, shrieking chases past him.
At the steps they divided, some surging upward and others crowding into the lower corridor.
"Below for us," said the Tennessee Shad, pushing his way forward.
Dink found himself outside of one of the dozen classrooms in a throng that waited hopefully, as other classes waited hopefully every hour of every day in the hopes of an improbable cut.
"The Roman," said the Tennessee Shad wisely, "is the one master you want to stand in with. Study like the devil the first two weeks; and say, get up on the gerund and the gerundive—they're his pets."
"I will," said Dink.
"You can't bluff him and you can't beat his system," continued the Tennessee Shad. "If you guess don't hesitate; jump at it. The only thing you can do is to wait for his jokes, and then grab the desk and weep for salvation—it's his one weak spot."
"I will," said Dink.
A cry of dismay went up from the sentinels at the window.
"Oh, rats! Here he comes."
Dink modestly took a seat in the back, at the end of the row of S's where he must sit. On four sides, like prison walls that no convict might hope to scale, the slippery blackboards rose up and bound them in. On a raised stand was the master's pulpit where presently The Roman would come and sit, like the watcher of the galley slaves in Ben Hur, with his eagle glance sweeping the desks that, in regimental file, ran back from him.
Outside, through two open windows, was the warm, forbidden month of April, and the gateway to syntax-defying dreams. At this moment Dink's copy of Caesar's Gallic Wars slid on to the floor. He bent down, laboriously collecting the scattered pages and straightened up. Then he glanced at the pulpit. Directly in front of him, his eyes on his eyes, sat the big consular frame of his stage companion of the day before.
Dink gasped in horror; twice his hand went instinctively toward his lip, stopped half-way and dropped. Then his mouth opened, set, and galvanically he rose to his feet, while the room seemed to tip up.
He grasped the desk to keep from slipping, never taking his eyes from the Ciceronian countenance and the twinkling orbits above the slightly twitching lips.