THE PLASTIC AGE
ILLUSTRATED WITH SCENES FROM THE PHOTOPLAY A PREFERRED PICTURE
GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
Made in the United States of America
1924 THE CENTURY Co. PRINTED IN U. S. A.
To MY MOTHER
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"SHE'S MY GIRL! HANDS OFF!" "LOOK! FLANNELS FOR MAMMA'S BOY!" "COME ON—I KNOW WHERE THERE'S LIQUID REFRESHMENT!" "THAT'S CYNTHIA DAY—A REAL HOTSY-TOTSY!" "DANCE, SALOME!" HUGH'S POPULARITY IS ESTABLISHED AFTER THE FIRST ATHLETIC TRY-OUTS. "ONE TURN, HUGH, AND WE'LL QUIT THESE JOINTS FOR GOOD!" CARL FORGETS HIS ANIMOSITY IN HONEST ADMIRATION FOR HUGH.
THE PLASTIC AGE
When an American sets out to found a college, he hunts first for a hill. John Harvard was an Englishman and indifferent to high places. The result is that Harvard has become a university of vast proportions and no color. Yale flounders about among the New Haven shops, trying to rise above them. The Harkness Memorial tower is successful; otherwise the university smells of trade. If Yale had been built on a hill, it would probably be far less important and much more interesting.
Hezekiah Sanford was wise; he found first his hill and then founded his college, believing probably that any one ambitious enough to climb the hill was a man fit to wrestle with learning and, if need be, with Satan himself. Satan was ever before Hezekiah, and he fought him valiantly, exorcising him every morning in chapel and every evening at prayers. The first students of Sanford College learned Latin and Greek and to fear the devil. There are some who declare that their successors learn less.
Hezekiah built Sanford Hall, a fine Georgian building, performed the duties of trustees, president, dean, and faculty for thirty years, and then passed to his reward, leaving three thousand acres, his library of five hundred books, mostly sermons, Sanford Hall, and a charter that opened the gates of Sanford to all men so that they might "find the true light of God and the glory of Jesus in the halls of this most liberal college."
More than a century had passed since Hezekiah was laid to rest in Haydensville's cemetery. The college had grown miraculously and changed even more miraculously. Only the hill and its beautiful surroundings remained the same. Indian Lake, on the south of the campus, still sparkled in the sunlight; on the east the woods were as virgin as they had been a hundred and fifty years before. Haydensville, still only a village, surrounded the college on the west and north.
Hezekiah's successors had done strange things to his campus. There were dozens of buildings now surrounding Sanford Hall, and they revealed all the types of architecture popular since Hezekiah had thundered his last defiance at Satan. There were fine old colonial buildings, their windows outlined by English ivy; ponderous Romanesque buildings made of stone, grotesque and hideous; a pseudo-Gothic chapel with a tower of surpassing loveliness; and four laboratories of the purest factory design. But despite the conglomerate and sometimes absurd architecture—a Doric temple neighbored a Byzantine mosque—the campus was beautiful. Lawns, often terraced, stretched everywhere, and the great elms lent a dignity to Sanford College that no architect, however stupid, could quite efface.
This first day of the new college year was glorious in the golden haze of Indian summer. The lake was silver blue, the long reflections of the trees twisting and bending as a soft breeze ruffled the surface into tiny waves. The hills already brilliant with color—scarlet, burnt orange, mauve, and purple—flamed up to meet the clear blue sky; the elms softly rustled their drying leaves; the white houses of the village retreated coyly behind maples and firs and elms: everywhere there was peace, the peace that comes with strength that has been stronger than time.
As Hugh Carver hastened up the hill from the station, his two suit-cases banged his legs and tripped him. He could hardly wait to reach the campus. The journey had been intolerably long—Haydensville was more than three hundred miles from Merrytown, his home—and he was wild to find his room in Surrey Hall. He wondered how he would like his room-mate, Peters.... What's his name? Oh, yes, Carl.... The registrar had written that Peters had gone to Kane School.... Must be pretty fine. Ought to be first-class to room with.... Hugh hoped that Peters wouldn't think that he was too country....
Hugh was a slender lad who looked considerably less than his eighteen years. A gray cap concealed his sandy brown hair, which he parted on the side and which curled despite all his brushing. His crystalline blue eyes, his small, neatly carved nose, his sensitive mouth that hid a shy and appealing smile, were all very boyish. He seemed young, almost pathetically young.
People invariably called him a nice boy, and he didn't like it; in fact, he wanted to know how they got that way. They gave him the pip, that's what they did. He guessed that a fellow who could run the hundred in 10: 2 and out-box anybody in high school wasn't such a baby. Why, he had overheard one of the old maid teachers call him sweet. Sweet! Cripes, that old hen made him sick. She was always pawing him and sticking her skinny hands in his hair. He was darn glad to get to college where there were only men teachers.
Women always wanted to get their hands into his hair, and boys liked him on sight. Many of those who were streaming up the hill before and behind him, who passed him or whom he passed, glanced at his eager face and thought that there was a guy they'd like to know.
An experienced observer would have divided those boys into three groups: preparatory school boys, carelessly at ease, well dressed, or, as the college argot has it, "smooth"; boys from city schools, not so well dressed perhaps, certainly not so sure of themselves; and country boys, many of them miserably confused and some of them clad in Kollege Kut Klothes that they would shamefacedly discard within a week.
Hugh finally reached the top of the hill, and the campus was before him. He had visited the college once with his father and knew his way about. Eager as he was to reach Surrey Hall, he paused to admire the pseudo-Gothic chapel. He felt a little thrill of pride as he stared in awe at the magnificent building. It had been willed to the college by an alumnus who had made millions selling rotten pork.
Hugh skirted two of the factory laboratories, hurried between the Doric temple and Byzantine mosque, paused five times to direct confused classmates, passed a dull red colonial building, and finally stood before Surrey Hall, a large brick dormitory half covered by ivy.
He hurried up-stairs and down a corridor until he found a door with 19 on it. He knocked.
"What th' hell! Come in." The voice was impatiently cheerful.
Hugh pushed open the door and entered the room to meet wild confusion—and his room-mate. The room was a clutter of suit-cases, trunks, clothes, banners, unpacked furniture, pillows, pictures, golf-sticks, tennis-rackets, and photographs—dozens of photographs, all of them of girls apparently. In the middle of the room a boy was on his knees before an open trunk. He had sleek black hair, parted meticulously in the center, a slender face with rather sharp features and large black eyes that almost glittered. His lips were full and very red, almost too red, and his cheeks seemed to be colored with a hard blush.
"Hullo," he said in a clear voice as Hugh came in. "Who are you?"
Hugh flushed slightly. "I'm Carver," he answered, "Hugh Carver."
The other lad jumped to his feet, revealing, to Hugh's surprise, golf knickers. He was tall, slender, and very neatly built.
"Hell!" he exclaimed. "I ought to have guessed that." He held out his hand. "I'm Carl Peters, the guy you've got to room with—and God help you."
Hugh dropped his suit-cases and shook hands. "Guess I can stand it," he said with a quick laugh to hide his embarrassment. "Maybe you'll need a little of God's help yourself." Diffident and unsure, he smiled—and Peters liked him on the spot.
"Chase yourself," Peters said easily. "I know a good guy when I see one. Sit down somewhere—er, here." He brushed a pile of clothes off a trunk to the floor with one sweep of his arm. "Rest yourself after climbing that goddamn hill. Christ! It's a bastard, that hill is. Say, your trunk's down-stairs. I saw it. I'll help you bring it up soon's you've got your wind."
Hugh was rather dazzled by the rapid, staccato talk, and, to tell the truth, he was a little shocked by the profanity. Not that he wasn't used to profanity; he had heard plenty of that in Merrytown, but he didn't expect somehow that a college man—that is, a prep-school man—would use it. He felt that he ought to make some reply to Peters's talk, but he didn't know just what would do. Peters saved him the trouble.
"I'll tell you, Carver—oh, hell, I'm going to call you Hugh—we're going to have a swell joint here. Quite the darb. Three rooms, you know; a bedroom for each of us and this big study. I've brought most of the junk that I had at Kane, and I s'pose you've got some of your own."
"Not much," Hugh replied, rather ashamed of what he thought might be considered stinginess. He hastened to explain that he didn't know what Carl would have; so he thought that he had better wait and get his stuff at college.
"That's the bean," exclaimed Carl, He had perched himself on the window-seat. He threw one well shaped leg over the other and gazed at Hugh admiringly. "You certainly used the old bean. Say, I've got a hell of a lot of truck here, and if you'd a brought much, we'd a been swamped.... Say, I'll tell you how we fix this dump." He jumped up, led Hugh on a tour of the rooms, discussed the disposal of the various pieces of furniture with enormous gusto, and finally pointed to the photographs.
"Hope you don't mind my harem," he said, making a poor attempt to hide his pride.
"It's some harem," replied Hugh in honest awe.
Again he felt ashamed. He had pictures of his father and mother, and that was all. He'd write to Helen for one right away. "Where'd you get all of 'em? You've certainly got a collection."
"Sure have. The album of hearts I've broken. When I've kissed a girl twice I make her give me her picture. I've forgotten the names of some of these janes. I collected ten at Bar Harbor this summer and three at Christmas Cove. Say, this kid—" he fished through a pile of pictures—"was the hottest little devil I ever met." He passed to Hugh a cabinet photograph of a standard flapper. "Pet? My God!" He cast his eyes ceilingward ecstatically.
Hugh's mind was a battle-field of disapproval and envy. Carl dazzled and confused him. He had often listened to the recitals of their exploits by the Merrytown Don Juans, but this good-looking, sophisticated lad evidently had a technique and breadth of experience quite unknown to Merrytown. He wanted badly to hear more, but time was flying and he hadn't even begun to unpack.
"Will you help me bring up my trunk?" he asked half shyly.
"Oh, hell, yes. I'd forgotten all about that. Come on."
They spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking, arranging and rearranging the furniture and pictures. They found a restaurant and had dinner. Then they returned to 19 Surrey and rearranged the furniture once more, pausing occasionally to chat while Carl smoked. He offered Hugh a cigarette. Hugh explained that he did not smoke, that he was a sprinter and that the coaches said that cigarettes were bad for a runner.
"Right-o," said Carl, respecting the reason thoroughly. "I can't run worth a damn myself, but I'm not bad at tennis—not very good, either. Say, if you're a runner you ought to make a fraternity easy. Got your eye on one?"
"Well," said Hugh, "my father's a Nu Delt."
"The Nu Delts. Phew! High-hat as hell." He looked at Hugh enviously. "Say, you certainly are set. Well, my old man never went to college, but I want to tell you that he left us a whale of a lot of jack when he passed out a couple of years ago."
"What!" Hugh exclaimed, staring at him in blank astonishment.
In an instant Carl was on his feet, his flashing eyes dimmed by tears. "My old man was the best scout that ever lived—the best damned old scout that ever lived." His sophistication was all gone; he was just a small boy, heartily ashamed of himself and ready to cry. "I want you to know that," he ended defiantly.
At once Hugh was all sympathy. "Sure, I know," he said softly. Then he smiled and added, "So's mine."
Carl's face lost its lugubriousness in a broad grin. "I'm a fish," he announced. "Let's hit the hay."
"You said it!"
Hugh wrote two letters before he went to bed, one to his mother and father and the other to Helen Simpson. His letter to Helen was very brief, merely a request for her photograph.
Then, his mind in a whirl of excitement, he went to bed and lay awake dreaming, thinking of Carl, the college, and, most of all, of Helen and his walk with her the day before.
He had called on her to say good-by. They had been "going together" for a year, and she was generally considered his girl. She was a pretty child with really beautiful brown hair, which she had foolishly bobbed, lively blue eyes, and an absurdly tiny snub nose. She was little, with quick, eager hands—a shallow creature who was proud to be seen with Hugh because he had been captain of the high-school track team. But she did wish that he wasn't so slow. Why, he had kissed her only once, and that had been a silly peck on the cheek. Perhaps he was just shy, but sometimes she was almost sure that he was "plain dumb."
They had walked silently along the country road to the woods that skirted the town. An early frost had already touched the foliage with scarlet and orange. They sat down on a fallen log, and Hugh gazed at a radiant maple-tree.
Helen let her hand drop lightly on his. "Thinking of me?" she asked softly.
Hugh squeezed her hand. "Yes," he whispered, and looked at the ground while he scuffed some fallen leaves with the toe of his shoe.
"I am going to miss you, Hughie—oh, awfully. Are you going to miss me?"
He held her hand tightly and said nothing. He was aware only of her hand. His throat seemed to be stopped, choked with something.
A bird that should have been on its way south chirped from a tree near by. The sound made Hugh look up. He noticed that the shadows were lengthening. He and Helen would have to start back pretty soon or he would be late for dinner. There was still packing to do; his mother had said that his father wanted to have a talk with him—and through all his thoughts there ran like a fiery red line the desire to kiss the girl whose hand was clasped in his.
He turned slightly toward her. "Hughie," she whispered and moved close to him. His heart stopped as he loosened her hand from his and put his arm around her. With a contented sigh she rested her head on one shoulder and her hand on the other. "Hughie dear," she breathed softly.
He hesitated no longer. His heart was beating so that he could not speak, but he bent and kissed her. And there they sat for half an hour more, close in each other's embrace, speaking no words, but losing themselves in kisses that seemed to have no end.
Finally Hugh realized that darkness had fallen. He drew the yielding girl to her feet and started home, his arm around her. When they reached her gate, he embraced her once more and kissed her as if he could never let her go. A light flashed in a window. Frightened, he tried to leave, but she clung to him.
"I must go," he whispered desperately.
"I'm going to miss you awfully." He thought that she was weeping—and kissed her again. Then as another window shot light into the yard, he forced her arms from around his neck.
"Good-by, Helen. Write to me." His voice was rough and husky.
"Oh, I will. Good-by—darling."
He walked home tingling with emotion. He wanted to shout; he felt suddenly grown up. Golly, but Helen was a little peach. He felt her arms around his neck again, her lips pressed maddeningly to his. For an instant he was dizzy....
* * * * *
As he lay in bed in 19 Surrey thinking of Helen, he tried to summon that glorious intoxication again. But he failed. Carl, the college, registration—a thousand thoughts intruded themselves. Already Helen seemed far away, a little nebulous. He wondered why....
For the next few days Carl and Hugh did little but wait in line. They lined up to register; they lined up to pay tuition; they lined up to shake hands with President Culver; they lined up to talk for two quite useless minutes with the freshman dean; they lined up to be assigned seats in the commons. Carl suggested that he and Hugh line up in the study before going to bed so that they would keep in practice. Then they had to attend lectures given by various members of the faculty about college customs, college manners, college honor, college everything. After the sixth of them, Hugh, thoroughly weary and utterly confused, asked Carl if he now had any idea of what college was.
"Yes," replied Carl; "it's a young ladies' school for very nice boys."
"Well," Hugh said desperately, "if I have to listen to about two more awfully noble lectures, I'm going to get drunk. I have a hunch that college isn't anything like what these old birds say it is. I hope not, anyway."
"Course it isn't. Say, why wait for two more of the damn things to kill you off?" He pulled a flask out of his desk drawer and held it out invitingly.
Hugh laughed. "You told me yourself that that stuff was catgut and that you wouldn't drink it on a bet. Besides, you know that I don't drink. If I'm going to make my letter, I've got to keep in trim."
"Right you are. Wish I knew what to do with this poison. If I leave it around here, the biddy'll get hold of it, and then God help us. I'll tell you what: after it gets dark to-night we'll take it down and poison the waters of dear old Indian Lake."
"All right. Say, I've got to pike along; I've got a date with my faculty adviser. Hope I don't have to stand in line."
He didn't have to stand in line—he was permitted to sit—but he did have to wait an hour and a half. Finally a student came out of the inner office, and a gruff voice from within called, "Next!"
"Just like a barber shop," flashed across Hugh's mind as he entered the tiny office.
An old-young man was sitting behind a desk shuffling papers. He glanced up as Hugh came in and motioned him to a chair beside him. Hugh sat down and stared at his feet.
"Um, let's see. Your name's—what?"
"Carver, sir. Hugh Carver."
The adviser, Professor Kane, glanced at some notes. "Oh, yes, from Merrytown High School, fully accredited. Are you taking an A.B. or a B.S.?"
"I—I don't know."
"You have to have one year of college Latin for a B.S. and at least two years of Greek besides for an A.B."
"Oh!" Hugh was frightened and confused. He knew that his father was an A.B., but he had heard the high-school principal say that Greek was useless nowadays. Suddenly he remembered: the principal had advised him to take a B.S.; he had said that it was more practical.
"I guess I'd better take a B.S.," he said softly. "Very well." Professor Kane, who hadn't yet looked at Hugh, picked up a schedule card. "Any middle name?" he asked abruptly.
Kane scribbled H.M. Carver at the top of the card and then proceeded to fill it in rapidly. He hastily explained the symbols that he was using, but he did not say anything about the courses. When he had completed the schedule, he copied it on another card, handed one to Hugh, and stuck the other into a filing-box.
"Anything else?" he asked, turning his blond, blank face toward Hugh for the first time.
Hugh stood up. There were a dozen questions that he wanted to ask. "No, sir," he replied. "Very well, then. I am your regular adviser. You will come to me when you need assistance. Good day."
"Good day, sir," and as Hugh passed out of the door, the gruff voice bawled, "Next!" The boy nearest the door rose and entered the sanctum.
Hugh sought the open air and gazed at the hieroglyphics on the card. "Guess they mean something," he mused, "but how am I going to find out?" A sudden fear made him blanch. "I bet I get into the wrong places. Oh, golly!"
* * * * *
Then came the upper-classmen, nearly seven hundred of them. The quiet campus became a bedlam of excitement and greetings. "Hi, Jack. Didya have a good summer?"... "Well, Tom, ol' kid, I sure am glad to see you back."... "Put her there, ol' scout; it's sure good to see you." Everywhere the same greetings: "Didya have a good summer? Glad to see you back." Every one called every one else by his first name; every one shook hands with astonishing vigor, usually clutching the other fellow by the forearm at the same time. How cockily these lads went around the campus! No confusion or fear for them; they knew what to do.
For the first time Hugh felt a pang of homesickness; for the first time he realized that he wasn't yet part of the college. He clung close to Carl and one or two other lads in Surrey with whom he picked up an acquaintance, and Carl clung close to Hugh, careful to hide the fact that he felt very small and meek. For the first time he realized that he was just a freshman—and he didn't like it.
Then suddenly the tension, which had been gathering for a day or so, broke. Orders went out from the upper-classmen that all freshmen put on their baby bonnets, silly little blue caps with a bright orange button. From that moment every freshman was doomed. Work was their lot, and plenty of it. "Hi, freshman, carry up my trunk. Yeah, you, freshman—you with the skinny legs. You and your fat friend carry my trunk up to the fourth floor—and if you drop it, I'll break your fool necks."... "Freshman! go down to the station and get my suit-cases. Here are the checks. Hurry back if you know what's good for you."... "Freshman! go up to Hill Twenty-eight and put the beds together."... "Freshman! come up to my room. I want you to hang pictures."
Fortunately the labor did not last long, but while it lasted Hugh was hustled around as he never had been before. And he loved it. He loved his blue cap and its orange button; he loved the upper-classmen who called him freshman and ordered him around; he loved the very trunks that he lugged so painfully up-stairs. He was being recognized, merely as a janitor, it is true, but recognized; at last he was a part of Sanford College. Further, one of the men who had ordered him around the most fiercely wore a Nu Delta pin, the emblem of his father's fraternity. He ran that man's errands with such speed and willingness that the hero decided that the freshman was "very, very dumb."
That night Hugh and Carl sat in 19 Surrey and rested their aching bones, one on a couch, the other in a leather Morris chair.
"Hot stuff, wasn't it?" said Hugh, stretching out comfortably.
"Hot stuff, hell! How do they get that way?"
"Never mind; we'll do the ordering next year."
"Right you are," said Carl decisively, lighting a cigarette, "and won't I make the little frosh walk." He gazed around the room, his face beaming with satisfaction. "Say, we're pretty snappy here, aren't we?"
Hugh, too, looked around admiringly. The walls were almost hidden by banners, a huge Sanford blanket—Hugh's greatest contribution—Carl's Kane blanket, the photographs of the "harem," posters of college athletes and movie bathing-girls, pipe-racks, and three Maxfield Parrish prints.
"It certainly is fine," said Hugh proudly. "All we need is a barber pole and a street sign."
"We'll have 'em before the week is out." This with great decision.
Carl's adviser had been less efficient than Hugh's; therefore he knew what his courses were, where the classes met and the hours, the names of his instructors, and the requirements other than Latin for a B.S. degree. Carl said that he was taking a B.S. because he had had a year of Greek at Kane and was therefore perfectly competent to make full use of the language; he could read the letters on the front doors of the fraternity houses.
The boys found that their courses were the same but that they were in different sections. Hugh was in a dilemma; he could make nothing out of his card.
"Here," said Carl, "give the thing to me. My adviser was a good scout and wised me up. This P.C. isn't paper cutting as you might suppose; it's gym. You'll get out of that by signing up for track. P.C. means physical culture. Think of that! You can sign up for track any time to-morrow down at the gym. And E I, 7 means that you're in English I, Section 7; and M is math. You re in Section 3. Lat means Latin, of course—Section 6. My adviser—he tried pretty hard to be funny—said that G.S. wasn't glorious salvation but general science. That meets in the big lecture hall in Cranston. We all go to that. And H I, 4 means that you are in Section 4 of History I. See? That's all there is to it. Now this thing"—he held up a printed schedule—"tells you where the classes meet."
With a great deal of labor, discussion, and profanity they finally got a schedule made out that meant something to Hugh. He heaved a Brobdingnagian sigh of relief when they finished.
"Well," he exclaimed, "that's that! At last I know where I'm going. You certainly saved my life. I know where all the buildings are; so it ought to be easy."
"Sure," said Carl encouragingly; "it's easy. Now there's nothing to do till to-morrow until eight forty-five when we attend chapel to the glory of the Lord. I think I'll pray to-morrow; I may need it. Christ! I hate to study."
"Me, too," Hugh lied. He really loved books, but somehow he couldn't admit the fact, which had suddenly become shameful, to Carl. "Let's go to the movies," he suggested, changing the subject for safety.
"Right-o!" Carl put on his freshman cap and flung Hugh's to him. "Gloria Nielsen is there, and she's a pash baby. Ought to be a good fillum."
The Blue and Orange—it was the only movie theater in town—was almost full when the boys arrived. Only a few seats near the front were still vacant. A freshman started down the aisle, his "baby bonnet" stuck jauntily on the back of his head.
"Freshman!"... "Kill him!"... "Murder the frosh!" Shouts came from all parts of the house, and an instant later hundreds of peanuts shot swiftly at the startled freshman. "Cap! Cap! Cap off!" There was a panic of excitement. Upper-classmen were standing on their chairs to get free throwing room. The freshman snatched off his cap, drew his head like a scared turtle down into his coat collar, and ran for a seat. Hugh and Carl tucked their caps into their coat pockets and attempted to stroll nonchalantly down the aisle. They hadn't taken three steps before the bombardment began. Like their classmate, they ran for safety.
Then some one in the front of the theatre threw a peanut at some one in the rear. The fight was on! Yelling like madmen, the students stood on their chairs and hurled peanuts, the front and rear of the house automatically dividing into enemy camps. When the fight was at its hottest, three girls entered.
"Wimmen! Wimmen!" As the girls walked down the aisle, infinitely pleased with their reception, five hundred men stamped in time with their steps.
No sooner were the girls seated than there was a scramble in one corner, an excited scuffling of feet. "I've got it!" a boy screamed. He stood on his chair and held up a live mouse by its tail. There was a shout of applause and then—"Play catch!"
The boy dropped the writhing mouse into a peanut bag, screwed the open end tight-closed, and then threw the bag far across the room. Another boy caught it and threw it, this time over the girls' heads. They screamed and jumped upon their chairs, holding their skirts, and dancing up and down in assumed terror. Back over their heads, back and over, again and again the bagged mouse was thrown while the girls screamed and the boys roared with delight. Suddenly one of the girls threw up her arm, caught the bag deftly, held it for a second, and then tossed it into the rear of the theater.
Cheers of terrifying violence broke loose: "Ray! Ray! Atta girl! Hot dog! Ray, ray!" And then the lights went out.
"Moosick! Moosick! Moo-sick!" The audience stamped and roared, whistled and howled. "Moosick! We want moosick!"
The pianist, an undergraduate, calmly strolled down the aisle.
"Get a move on!"... "Earn your salary!"... "Give us moosick!"
The pianist paused to thumb his nose casually at the entire audience, and then amid shouts and hisses sat down at the piano and began to play "Love Nest."
Immediately the boys began to whistle, and as the comedy was utterly stupid, they relieved their boredom by whistling the various tunes that the pianist played until the miserable film flickered out.
Then the "feature" and the fun began. During the stretches of pure narrative, the boys whistled, but when there was any real action they talked. The picture was a melodrama of "love and hate," as the advertisement said.
The boys told the actors what to do; they revealed to them the secrets of the plot. "She's hiding behind the door, Harold. No, no! Not that way. Hey, dumbbell—behind the door."... "Catch him, Gloria; he's only shy!"... "No, that's not him!"
The climactic fight brought shouts of encouragement—to the villain. "Kill him!"... "Shoot one to his kidneys!"... "Ahhhhh," as the villain hit the hero in the stomach.... "Muss his hair. Attaboy!"... "Kill the skunk!" And finally groans of despair when the hero won his inevitable victory.
But it was the love scenes that aroused the greatest ardor and joy. The hero was given careful instructions. "Some neckin', Harold!"... "Kiss her! Kiss her! Ahhh!"... "Harold, Harold, you're getting rough!"... "She's vamping you, Harold!"... "Stop it; Gloria; he's a good boy." And so on until the picture ended in the usual close-up of the hero and heroine silhouetted in a tender embrace against the setting sun. The boys breathed "Ahhhh" and "Ooooh" ecstatically—and laughed. The meretricious melodrama did not fool them, but they delighted in its absurdities.
The lights flashed on and the crowd filed out, "wise-cracking" about the picture and commenting favorably on the heroine's figure. There were shouts to this fellow or that fellow to come on over and play bridge, and suggestions here and there to go to a drug store and get a drink.
Hugh and Carl strolled home over the dark campus, both of them radiant with excitement, Hugh frankly so.
"Golly, I did enjoy that," he exclaimed. "I never had a better time. It was sure hot stuff. I don't want to go to the room; let's walk for a while."
"Yeah, it was pretty good," Carl admitted. "Nope, I can't go walking; gotta write a letter."
"Who to? The harem?"
Carl hunched his shoulders until his ears touched his coat collar. "Gettin' cold. Fall's here. Nope, not the harem. My old lady."
Hugh looked at him bewildered. He was finding Carl more and more a conundrum. He consistently called his mother his old lady, insisted that she was a damned nuisance—and wrote to her every night. Hugh was writing to his mother only twice a week. It was very confusing....
Capwell Chapel—it bore the pork merchant's name as an eternal memorial to him—was as impressive inside as out. The stained-glass windows had been made by a famous New York firm; the altar had been designed by an even more famous sculptor. The walls, quite improperly, were adorned with paintings of former presidents, but the largest painting of all—it was fairly Gargantuan—was of the pork merchant, a large, ruddy gentleman, whom the artist, a keen observer, had painted truly—complacently porcine, benevolently smug.
The seniors and juniors sat in the nave, the sophomores on the right side of the transept, the freshmen on the left. Hugh gazed upward in awe at the dim recesses of the vaulted ceiling, at the ornately carved choir where gowned students were quietly seating themselves, at the colored light streaming through the beautiful windows, at the picture of the pork merchant. The chapel bells ceased tolling; rich, solemn tones swelled from the organ.
President Culver in cap and gown, his purple hood falling over his shoulders, entered followed by his faculty, also gowned and hooded. The students rose and remained standing until the president and faculty were seated. The organ sounded a final chord, and then the college chaplain rose and prayed—very badly. He implored the Lord to look kindly "on these young men who have come from near and far to drink from this great fount of learning, this well of wisdom."
The prayer over, the president addressed the students. He was a large, erect man with iron-gray hair and a rugged intelligent face. Although he was sixty years old, his body was vigorous and free from extra weight. He spoke slowly and impressively, choosing his words with care and enunciating them with great distinctness. His address was for the freshmen: he welcomed them to Sanford College, to its splendid traditions, its high ideals, its noble history. He spoke of the famous men it numbered among its sons, of the work they had done for America and the world, of the work he hoped future Sanford men, they, the freshmen, would some day do for America and the world. He mentioned briefly the boys from Sanford who had died in the World War "to make the world safe for democracy," and he prayed that their sacrifice had not been in vain. Finally, he spoke of the chapel service, which the students were required to attend. He hoped that they would find inspiration in it, knowledge and strength. He assured them that the service would always be nonsectarian, that there would never be anything in it to offend any one of any race, creed, or religion. With a last exhortation to the freshmen to make the most of their great opportunities, he ended with the announcement that they would rise and sing the sixty-seventh hymn.
Hugh was deeply impressed by the speech but disturbed by the students. From where he sat he got an excellent view of the juniors and seniors. The seniors, who sat in the front of the nave, seemed to be paying fairly good attention; but the juniors—many of them, at least—paid no attention at all. Some of them were munching apples, some doughnuts, and many of them were reading "The Sanford News," the college's daily paper. Some of the juniors talked during the president's address, and once he noticed four of them doubled up as if overcome by laughter. To him the service was a beautiful and impressive occasion. He could not understand the conduct of the upper-classmen. It seemed, to put it mildly, irreverent.
Every one, however, sang the doxology with great vigor, some of the boys lifting up a "whisky" tenor that made the chapel ring, and to which Hugh happily added his own clear tenor. The benediction was pronounced by the chaplain, the seniors marched out slowly in twos, while the other students and the faculty stood in their places; then the president, followed by the faculty, passed out of the great doors. When the back of the last faculty gown had disappeared, the under-classmen broke for the door, pushing each other aside, swearing when a toe was stepped on, yelling to each other, some of them joyously chanting the doxology. Hugh was caught in the rush and carried along with the mob, feeling ashamed and distressed; this was no way to leave a church.
Once outside, however, he had no time to think of the chapel service; he had five minutes in which to get to his first class, and the building was across the campus, a good two minutes' walk. He patted his cap to be sure that it was firmly on the back of his head, clutched his note-book, and ran as hard as he could go, the strolling upper-classmen, whom he passed at top speed, grinning after him in tolerant amusement.
Hugh was the first one in the class-room and wondered in a moment of panic if he was in the right place. He sat down dubiously and looked at his watch. Four minutes left. He would wait two, and then if nobody came he would—he gasped; he couldn't imagine what he would do. How could he find the right class-room? Maybe his class didn't come at this hour at all. Suppose he and Carl had made a mistake. If they had, his whole schedule was probably wrong. "Oh, golly," he thought, feeling pitifully weak, "won't that be hell? What can I do?"
At that moment a countrified-looking youth entered, looking as scared as Hugh felt. His face was pale, and his voice trembled as he asked timidly, "Do you know if this is Section Three of Math One?"
Hugh was immediately strengthened. "I think so," he replied. "Anyhow, let's wait and find out."
The freshman sighed in huge relief, took out a not too clean handkerchief, and mopped his face. "Criminy!" he exclaimed as he wriggled down the aisle to a seat by Hugh, "I was sure worried. I thought I was in the wrong building, though I was sure that my adviser had told me positively that Math was in Matthew Six."
"I guess we're all right," Hugh comforted him as two other freshmen, also looking dubious, entered. They were followed by four more, and then by a stampeding group, all of them pop-eyed, all of them in a rush. In the next minute five freshmen dashed in and then dashed out again, utterly bewildered, obviously terrified, and not knowing where to go or what to do. "Is this Math One, Section Three?" every man demanded of the room as he entered; and every one yelled, "Yes," or, "I think so."
Just as the bell rang at ten minutes after the hour, the instructor entered. It was Professor Kane.
"This is Mathematics One, Section Three," Kane announced in a dry voice. "If there is any one here who does not belong here, he will please leave." Nobody moved; so he shuffled some cards in his hand and asked the men to answer to the roll-call.
Kane looked up and frowned. "Say 'here,'" he said severely. "This is not a grammar-school."
"Yes, sir," stuttered Adams, his face first white then purple. "Here, sir."
"'Here' will do; there is no need of the 'sir.' Allsop, K.E."
"Here"—in a very faint voice.
"Here." This time a little louder.
And so it went, hardly a man escaping without some admonishment. Hugh's throat went dry; his tongue literally stuck to the roof of his mouth: he was sure that he wouldn't be able to say "Here" when it came his turn, and he could feel his heart pounding in dreadful anticipation.
There! it was out! Or had he really said it?
He looked at the professor in terror, but Kane was already calling, "Dana, R.T." Hugh sank back in his chair; he was trembling.
Kane announced the text-book, and when Hugh caught the word "trigonometry" he actually thrilled with joy. He had had trig in high school. Whoops! Would he hit Math I in the eye? He'd knock it for a goal.... Then conscience spoke. Oughtn't he to tell Kane that he had already had trig? He guessed quite rightly that Kane had not understood his high-school credentials, which had given him credit for "advanced mathematics." Kane had taken it for granted that that was advanced algebra. Hugh felt that he ought to explain the mistake, but fear of the arid, impersonal man restrained him. Kane had told him to take Math I; and Kane was law.
Unlike most of Hugh's instructors, Kane kept the class the full hour the first day, seating them in alphabetical order—he had to repeat the performance three times during the week as new men entered the class—lecturing them on the need of doing their problems carefully and accurately, and discoursing on the value of mathematics, trigonometry in particular, in the study of science and engineering. Hugh was not interested in science, engineering, or mathematics, but he listened carefully, trying hard to follow Kane's cold discourse. At the end of the hour he told his neighbor as they left the room that he guessed that Professor Kane knew an awful lot, and his neighbor agreed with him.
Hugh's other instructors proved less impressive than Kane; in fact, Mr. Alling, the instructor in Latin, was altogether disconcerting.
"Plautus," he told the class, "wrote comedies, farces—not exercises in translation. He was also, my innocents, occasionally naughty—oh, really naughty. What's worse, he used slang, common every-day slang—the kind of stuff that you and I talk. Now, I have an excellent vocabulary of slang, obscenity, and profanity; and you are going to hear most of it. Think of the opportunity. Don't think that I mean just 'damn' and 'hell.' They are good for a laugh in a theater any day, but Plautus was not restrained by our modern conventions. You will confine yourselves, please, to English undefiled, but I shall speak the modern equivalent to a Roman gutter-pup's language whenever necessary. You will find this course very illuminating—in some ways. And, who knows? you may learn something not only about Latin but about Rome."
Hugh thought Mr. Alling was rather flippant and lacking in dignity. Professor Kane was more like a college teacher. Before the term was out he hated Kane with an intensity that astonished him, and he looked forward to his Latin classes with an eagerness of which he was almost ashamed. Plautus in the Alling free and colloquial translations was enormously funny.
Professor Hartley, who gave the history lectures, talked in a bass monotone and never seemed to pause for breath. His words came in a slow steady stream that never rose nor fell nor paused—until the bell rang. The men in the back of the room slept. Hugh was seated near the front; so he drew pictures in his note-book. The English instructor talked about punctuation as if it were very unpleasant but almost religiously important; and what the various lecturers in general science talked about—ten men gave the course—Hugh never knew. In after years all that he could remember about the course was that one man spoke broken English and that a professor of physics had made huge bulbs glow with marvelous colors.
Hugh had one terrifying experience before he finally got settled to his work. It occurred the second day of classes. He was comfortably seated in what he thought was his English class—he had come in just as the bell rang—when the instructor announced that it was a class in French. What was he to do? What would the instructor do if he got up and left the room? What would happen if he didn't report at his English class? What would happen to him for coming into his English class late? These questions staggered his mind. He was afraid to stay in the French class. Cautiously he got up and began to tiptoe to the door.
"Wrong room?" the instructor asked pleasantly.
Hugh flushed. "Yes, sir." He stopped dead still, not knowing what to do next.
He was a typical rattled freshman, and the class, which was composed of sophomores, laughed. Hugh, angry and humiliated, started for the door, but the instructor held up a hand that silenced the class; then he motioned for Hugh to come to his desk.
"What class are you looking for?"
"English One, sir, Section Seven." He held out his schedule card, reassured by the instructor's kindly manner.
The instructor looked at the card and then consulted a printed schedule.
"Oh," he said, "your adviser made a mistake. He got you into the wrong group list. You belong in Sanders Six."
"Thank you, sir." Hugh spoke so softly that the waiting class did not hear him, but the instructor smiled at the intensity of his thanks. As he left the room, he knew that every one was looking at him; his legs felt as if they were made of wood. It wasn't until he had closed the door that his knee-joints worked naturally. But the worst was still ahead of him. He had to go to his English class in Sanders 6. He ran across the campus, his heart beating wildly, his hands desperately clenched. When he reached Sanders 6, he found three other freshmen grouped before the door.
"Is this English One, Section Seven?" one asked tremulously.
"I think so," whispered the second. "Do you know?" he asked, turning to Hugh.
"Yes; I am almost sure."
They stood there looking at each other, no one quite daring to enter Sanders 6, no one quite daring to leave. Suddenly the front door of the building slammed. A bareheaded youth rushed up the stairs. He was a repeater; that is, a man who had failed the course the preceding year and was taking it over again. He brushed by the scared freshmen, opened the door, and strode into Sanders 6, closing the door behind him.
The freshmen looked at each other, and then the one nearest the door opened it. The four of them filed in silently.
The class looked up. "Sit in the back of the room," said the instructor.
And that was all there was to that. In his senior year Hugh remembered the incident and wondered at his terror. He tried to remember why he had been so badly frightened. He couldn't; there didn't seem to be any reason at all.
About a week after the opening of college, Hugh returned to Surrey Hall one night feeling unusually virtuous and happy. He had worked religiously at the library until it had closed at ten, and he had been in the mood to study. His lessons for the next day were all prepared, and prepared well. He had strolled across the moon-lit campus, buoyant and happy. Some one was playing the organ in the dark chapel; he paused to listen. Two students passed him, humming softly,
"Sanford, Sanford, mother of men, Love us, guard us, hold us true...."
The dormitories were dim masses broken by rectangles of soft yellow light. Somewhere a banjo twanged. Another student passed.
"Hello, Carver," he said pleasantly. "Nice night."
"Oh, hello, Jones. It sure is."
The simple greeting completed his happiness. He felt that he belonged, that Sanford, the "mother of men," had taken him to her heart. The music in the chapel swelled, lyric, passionate—up! up! almost a cry. The moonlight was golden between the heavy shadows of the elms. Tears came into the boy's eyes; he was melancholy with joy.
He climbed the stairs of Surrey slowly, reluctant to reach his room and Carl's flippancy. He passed an open door and glanced at the men inside the room.
"Hi, Hugh. Come in and bull a while."
"Not to-night, thanks." He moved on down the hall, feeling a vague resentment; his mood had been broken, shattered.
The door opposite his own room was slightly open. A freshman lived there, Herbert Morse, a queer chap with whom Carl and Hugh had succeeded in scraping up only the slightest acquaintance. He was a big fellow, fully six feet, husky and quick. The football coach said that he had the makings of a great half-back, but he had already been fired off the squad because of his irregularity in reporting for practice. Except for what the boys called his stand-offishness—some of them said that he was too damned high-hat—he was extremely attractive. He had red, almost copper-colored, hair, and an exquisite skin, as delicate as a child's. His features were well carved, his nose slightly aquiline—a magnificent looking fellow, almost imperious; or as Hugh once said to Carl, "Morse looks kinda noble."
As Hugh placed his hand on the door-knob of No 19, he heard something that sounded suspiciously like a sob from across the hall. He paused and listened. He was sure that he could hear some one crying.
"Wonder what's wrong," he thought, instantly disturbed and sympathetic.
He crossed the hall and tapped lightly on Morse's door. There was no answer; nor was there any when he tapped a second time. For a moment he was abashed, and then he pushed open the door and entered Morse's room.
In the far corner Morse was sitting at his, desk, his head buried in his arms, his shoulders shaking. He was crying fiercely, terribly; at times his whole body jerked in the violence of his sobbing.
Hugh stood by the door embarrassed and rather frightened. Morse's grief brought a lump to his throat. He had never seen any one cry like that before. Something had to be done. But what could he do? He had no right to intrude on Morse, but he couldn't let the poor fellow go on suffering like that. As he stood there hesitant, shaken, Morse buried his head deeper in his arms, moaned convulsively, twisting and trembling after a series of sobs that seemed to tear themselves from him. That was too much for Hugh. He couldn't stand it. Some force outside of him sent him across the room to Morse. He put his hand on a quivering shoulder and said gently:
"What is it, Morse? What's the matter?"
Morse ran his hand despairingly through his red hair, shook his head, and made no answer.
"Come on, old man; buck up." Hugh's voice trembled; it was husky with sympathy. "Tell me about it. Maybe I can help."
Then Morse looked up, his face stained with tears, his eyes inflamed, almost desperate. He stared at Hugh wonderingly. For an instant he was angry at the intrusion, but his anger passed at once. He could not miss the tenderness and sympathy in Hugh's face; and the boy's hand was still pressing with friendly insistence on his shoulder. There was something so boyishly frank, so clean and honest about Hugh that his irritation melted into confidence; and he craved a confidant passionately.
"Shut the door," he said dully, and reached into his trousers pocket for his handkerchief. He mopped his face and eyes vigorously while Hugh was closing the door, and then blew his nose as if he hated it. But the tears continued to come, and all during his talk with Hugh he had to pause occasionally to dry his eyes.
Hugh stood awkwardly in the middle of the rug, not knowing whether to sit down or not. Morse was clutching his handkerchief in his hand and staring at the floor. Finally he spoke up.
"Sit down," he said in a dead voice, "there."
Hugh sank into the chair Morse indicated and then gripped his hands together. He felt weak and frightened, and absolutely unable to say anything. But Morse saved him the trouble.
"I suppose you think I am an awful baby," he began, his voice thick with tears, "but I just can't help it. I—I just can't help it. I don't want to cry, but I do." And then he added defiantly, "Go ahead and think I'm a baby if you want to."
"I don't think you're a baby," Hugh said softly; "I'm just sorry; that's all.... I hope I can help." He smiled shyly, hopefully.
His smile conquered Morse. "You're a good kid, Carver," he cried impulsively. "A darn good kid. I like you, and I'm going to tell you all about it. And I—I—I won't care if you laugh."
"I won't laugh," Hugh promised, relieved to think that there was a possibility of laughing. The trouble couldn't be so awfully bad.
Morse blew his nose, stuck his handkerchief into his pocket, pulled it out again and dabbed his eyes, returned it to his pocket, and suddenly stood up.
"I'm homesick!" he blurred out. "I'm—I'm homesick, damned homesick. I've been homesick ever since I arrived. I—I just can't stand it."
For an instant Hugh did have a wild desire to laugh. Part of the desire was caused by nervous relief, but part of it was caused by what seemed to him the absurdity of the situation: a big fellow like Morse blubbering, bawling for home and mother!
"You can't know," Morse went on, "how awful it is—awful! I want to cry all the time. I can't listen in classes. A prof asked me a question to-day, and I didn't know what he had been talking about. He asked me what he had said. I had to say I didn't know. The whole class laughed, and the prof asked me why I had come to college. God! I nearly died."
Hugh's sympathy was all captured again. He knew that he would die if he ever made a fool of himself in the class-room.
"Gosh!" he exclaimed. "What did you say?"
"Nothing. I couldn't think of anything. For a minute I thought that my head was going to bust. He quit razzing me and I tried to pay attention, but I couldn't; all I could do was think of home. Lord! I wish I was there!" He mopped at his eyes and paced up and down the room nervously.
"Oh, you'll get over that," Hugh said comfortingly. "Pretty soon you'll get to know lots of fellows, and then you won't mind about home."
"That's what I keep telling myself, but it don't work. I can't eat or sleep. I can't study. I can't do anything. I tell you I've got to go home. I've got to!" This last with desperate emphasis.
Hugh smiled. "You're all wrong," he asserted positively. "You're just lonely; that's all. I bet that you'll be crazy about college in a month—same as the rest of us. When you feel blue, come in and see Peters and me. We'll make you grin; Peters will, anyway. You can't be blue around him."
Morse sat down. "You don't understand. I'm not lonely. It isn't that. I could talk to fellows all day long if I wanted to. I don't want to talk to 'em. I can't. There's just one person that I want to talk to, and that's my mother." He shot the word "mother" out defiantly and glared at Hugh, silently daring him to laugh, which Hugh had sense enough not to do, although he wanted to strongly. The great big baby, wanting his mother! Why, he wanted his mother, too, but he didn't cry about it.
"That's all right," he said reassuringly; "you'll see her Christmas vacation, and that isn't very long off."
"I want to see her now!" Morse jumped to his feet and raised his clenched hands above his head. "Now!" he roared. "Now! I've got to. I'm going home on the midnight." He whirled about to his desk and began to pull open the drawers, piling their contents on the top.
"Here!" Hugh rushed to him and clutched his arms. "Don't do that." Morse struggled, angry at the restraining hands, ready to strike them off. Hugh had a flash of inspiration. "Think how disappointed your mother will be," he cried, hanging on to Morse's arms; "think of her."
Morse ceased struggling. "She will be disappointed," he admitted miserably. "What can I do?" There was a world of despair in his question.
Hugh pushed him into the desk-chair and seated himself on the edge of the desk. "I'll tell you," he said. He talked for half an hour, cheering Morse, assuring him that his homesickness would pass away, offering to study with him. At first Morse paid little attention, but finally he quit sniffing and looked up, real interest in his face. When Hugh got a weak smile out of him, he felt that his work had been done. He jumped off the desk, leaned over to slap Morse on the back, and told him that he was a good egg but a damn fool.
Morse grinned. "You're a good egg yourself," he said gratefully. "You've saved my life."
Hugh was pleased and blushed. "You're full of bull.... Remember, we do Latin at ten to-morrow." He opened the door. "Good night."
"Good night." And Hugh heard as he closed the door. "Thanks a lot."
When he opened his own door, he found Carl sitting before a blazing log fire. There was no other light in the room. Carl had written his nightly letter to the "old lady," and he was a little homesick himself—softened into a tender and pensive mood. He did not move as Hugh sat down in a big chair on the other side of the hearth and said softly, "Thinking?"
"Un-huh. Where you been?"
"Across the hall in Morse's room." Then as Carl looked up in surprise, he told him of his experience with their red-headed neighbor. "He'll get over it," he concluded confidently. "He's just been lonely."
Carl puffed contemplatively at his pipe for a few minutes before replying. Hugh waited, watching the slender boy stretched out in a big chair before the fire, his ankles crossed, his face gentle and boyish in the ruddy, flickering light. The shadows, heavy and wavering, played magic with the room; it was vast, mysterious.
"No," said Carl, pausing again to puff his pipe; "no, he won't get over it. He'll go home."
"Aw, shucks. A big guy like that isn't going to stay a baby all his life." Hugh was frankly derisive. "Soon as he gets to know a lot of fellows, he'll forget home and mother."
Carl smiled vaguely, his eyes dreamy as he gazed into the hypnotizing flames. The mask of sophistication had slipped off his face; he was pleasantly in the control of a gentle mood, a mood that erased the last vestige of protective coloring.
He shook his head slowly. "You don't understand, Hugh. Morse is sick, sick—not lonesome. He's got something worse than flu. Nobody can stand what he's got."
Hugh looked at him in bewilderment. This was a new Carl, some one he hadn't met before. Gone was the slang flippancy, the hard roughness. Even his voice was softened.
Carl knocked his pipe empty on the knob of an andiron, sank deeper into his chair, and began to speak slowly.
"I think I'm going to tell you a thing or two about myself. We've got to room together, and I—well, I like you. You're a good egg, but you don't get me at all. I guess you've never run up against anybody like me before." He paused. Hugh said nothing, afraid to break into Carl's mood. He was intensely curious. He leaned forward and watched Carl, who was staring dreamily into the fire.
"I told you once, I think," he continued, "that my old man had left us a lot of jack. That's true. We're rich, awfully rich. I have my own account and can spend as much as I like. The sky's the limit. What I didn't tell you is that we're nouveau riche—no class at all. My old man made all his money the first year of the war. He was a commission-merchant, a middleman. Money just rolled in, I guess. He bought stocks with it, and they boomed; and he had sense enough to sell them when they were at the top. Six years ago we didn't have hardly anything. Now we're rich."
"My old man was a good scout, but he didn't have much education; neither has the old lady. Both of 'em went through grammar-school; that's all."
"Well, they knew they weren't real folks, not regular people, and they wanted me to be. See? That's why they sent me to Kane. Well, Kane isn't strong for nouveau riche kids, not by a damn sight. At first old Simmonds—he's the head master—wouldn't take me, said that he didn't have room; but my old man begged and begged, so finally Simmonds said all right."
Again he paused, and Hugh waited. Carl was speaking so softly that he had trouble in hearing him, but somehow he didn't dare to ask him to speak louder.
"I sha'n't forget the day," Carl went on, "that the old man left me at Kane. I was scared, and I didn't want to stay. But he made me; he said that Kane would make a gentleman out of me. I was homesick, homesick as hell. I know how Morse feels. I tried to run away three times, but they caught me and brought me back. Cry? I bawled all the time when I was alone. I couldn't sleep for weeks; I just laid in bed and bawled. God! it was awful. The worst of it was the meals. I didn't know how to eat right, you see, and the master who sat at the table with our form would correct me. I used to want to die, and sometimes I would say that I was sick and didn't want any food so that I wouldn't have to go to meals. The fellows razzed the life out of me; some of 'em called me Paddy. The reason I came here to Sanford was that no Kane fellows come here. They go mostly to Williams, but some of 'em go to Yale or Princeton.
"Well, I had four years of that, and I was homesick the whole four years. Oh, I don't mean that they kept after me all the time—that was just the first few months—but they never really accepted me. I never felt at home. Even when I was with a bunch of them, I felt lonesome.... And they never made a gentleman out of me, though my old lady thinks they did."
"You're crazy," Hugh interrupted indignantly. "You're as much a gentleman as anybody in college."
Carl smiled and shook his head. "No, you don't understand. You're a gentleman, but I'm not. Oh, I know all the tricks, the parlor stunts. Four years at Kane taught me those, but they're just tricks to me. I don't know just how to explain it—but I know that you're a gentleman and I'm not."
"You're just plain bug-house. You make me feel like a fish. Why, I'm just from a country high school. I'm not in your class." Hugh sat up and leaned eagerly toward Carl, gesticulating excitedly.
"As if that made any difference," Carl replied, his voice sharp with scorn. "You see, I'm a bad egg. I drink and gamble and pet. I haven't gone the limit yet on—on account of my old lady—but I will."
Hugh was relieved. He had wondered more than once during the past week "just how far Carl had gone." Several times Carl had suggested by sly innuendos that there wasn't anything that he hadn't done, and Hugh had felt a slight disapproval—and considerable envy. His own standards were very high, very strict, but he was ashamed to reveal them.
"I've never gone the limit either," he confessed shyly.
Carl threw back his head and laughed. "You poor fish; don't you suppose I know that?" he exclaimed.
"How did you know?" Hugh demanded indignantly. "I might've. Why, I was out with a girl just before I left home and—"
"You kissed her," Carl concluded for him. "I don't know how I knew, but I did. You're just kinda pure; that's all. I'm not pure at all; I'm just a little afraid—and I keep thinkin' of my old lady. I've started to several times, but I've always thought of her and quit."
He sat silent for a minute or two and then continued more gently. "My old lady never came to Kane. She never will come here, either. She wants to give me a real chance. See? She knows she isn't a lady—but—but, oh, God, Hugh, she's white, white as hell. I guess I think more of her than all the rest of the world put together. That's why I write to her every night. She writes to me every day, too. The letters have mistakes in them, but—but they keep me straight. That is, they have so far. I know, though, that some night I'll be out with a bag and get too much liquor in me—and then good-by, virginity."
"You're crazy, Carl. You know you won't." Carl rose from the chair and stretched hugely. "You're a good egg, Hugh," he said in the midst of a yawn, "but you're a damn fool."
Hugh started. That was just what he had said to Morse.
* * * * *
He never caught Carl in a confidential mood again. The next morning he was his old flippant self, swearing because he had to study his Latin, which wasn't "of any damned use to anybody."
In the following weeks Hugh religiously clung to Morse, helped him with his work, went to the movies with him, inveigled him into going on several long walks. Morse was more cheerful and almost pathetically grateful. One day, however, Hugh found an unstamped letter on the floor. He opened it wonderingly.
Dear Hugh [he read]. You've been awfully good to me but I can't stand it. I'm going home to-day. Give my regards to Peters. Thanks for all you've done for me.
For a moment after reading Morse's letter Hugh was genuinely sorry, but almost immediately he felt irritated and hurt.
He handed the letter to Carl, who entered just as he finished reading it, and exploded: "The simp! And after I wasted so much time on him."
Carl read the letter. "I told you so." He smiled impishly. "You were the wise boy; you knew that he would get over it."
Hugh should really have felt grateful to Morse. It was only a feeling of responsibility for him that had made Hugh prepare his own lessons. Day after day he had studied with Morse in order to cheer him up; and that was all the studying he had done. Latin and history had little opportunity to claim his interest in competition with the excitement around him.
Crossing the campus for the first few weeks of college was an adventure for every freshman. He did not know when he would be seized by a howling group of sophomores and forced to make an ass of himself for their amusement. Sometimes he was required to do "esthetic dancing," sometimes to sing, or, what was more common, to make a speech. And no matter how hard he tried, the sophomores were never pleased. If he danced, they laughed at him, guyed him unmercifully, called attention to his legs, his awkwardness, urged him to go faster, insisted that he get some "pash" into it. If he sang, and the frightened freshman usually sang off key, they interrupted him after a few notes, told him to sing something else, interrupted that, and told him "for God's sake" to dance. The speech-making, however, provided the most fun, especially if the freshman was cleverer than his captors. Then there was a battle of wits, and if the freshman too successfully defeated his opponents, he was dropped into a watering-trough that had stood on the campus for more than a century. Of justice there was none, but of sport there was a great plenty. The worst scared of the freshmen really enjoyed the experience. By a strange sort of inverted logic, he felt that he was something of a hero; at least, for a brief time he had occupied the public eye. He had been initiated; he was a Sanford man.
One freshman, however, found those two weeks harrowing. That was Merton Billings, the fat man of the class. Day after day he was captured by the sophomores and commanded to dance. He was an earnest youth and entirely without a sense of humor. Dancing to him was not only hard work but downright wicked. He was a member of the Epworth League, and he took his membership seriously. Even David, he remembered, had "got in wrong" because he danced; and he had no desire to emulate David. Within two days the sophomores discovered his religious ardor, his horror of drinking, smoking, and dancing. So they made him dance while they howled with glee at his bobbing stomach; his short, staggering legs; his red jowls, jigging and jouncing; his pale blue eyes, protruding excitedly from their sockets; his lips pressed tight together, periodically popping open for breath. He was very funny, very angry, and very much ashamed. Every night he prayed that he might be forgiven his sin. A month later when the intensity of his hatred had subsided somewhat, he remembered to his horror that he had not prayed that his tormentors be forgiven their even greater sin. He rectified the error without delay, not neglecting to ask that the error be forgiven, too.
Hugh was forced to sing, to dance, and to make a speech, but he escaped the watering-trough. He thought the fellows were darned nice to let him off, and they thought that he was too darned nice to be ducked. Although Hugh didn't suspect it, he was winning immediate popularity. His shy, friendly smile, his natural modesty, and his boyish enthusiasm were making a host of friends for him. He liked the "initiations" on the campus, but he did not like some of them in the dormitories. He didn't mind being pulled out of bed and shoved under a cold shower. He took a cold shower every morning, and if the sophomores wanted to give him another one at night—all right, he was willing. He had to confess that "Eliza Crossing the Ice" had been enormous fun. The freshmen were commanded to appear in the common room in their oldest clothes. Then all of them, the smallest lad excepted, got down on their hands and knees, forming a circle. The smallest lad, "Eliza," was given a big bucket full of water. He jumped upon the back of the man nearest to him and ran wildly around the circle, leaping from back to back, the bucket swinging crazily, the water splashing in every direction and over everybody.
Hugh liked such "stunts," and he liked putting on a show with three other freshmen for the amusement of their peers, but he did object to the vulgarity and cruelty of much that was done.
The first order the sophomores often gave was, "Strip, freshman." Just why the freshmen had to be naked before they performed, Hugh did not know, but there was something phallic about the proceedings that disgusted him. Like every athlete, he thought nothing of nudity, but he soon discovered that some of the freshmen were intensely conscious of it. True, a few months in the gymnasium cured them of that consciousness, but at first many of them were eternally wrapping towels about themselves in the gymnasium, and they took a shower as if it were an act of public shame. The sophomores recognized the timidity that some of the freshmen had in revealing their bodies, and they made full capital of it. The shyer the freshman, the more pointed their remarks, the more ingeniously nasty their tricks.
"I don't mind the razzing myself," Hugh told Carl after one particularly strenuous evening, "but I don't like the things they said to poor little Wilkins. And when they stripped 'em and made Wilkins read that dirty story to Culver, I wanted to fight"
"It was kinda rotten," Carl agreed, "but it was funny."
"It wasn't funny at all," Hugh said angrily.
Carl looked at him in surprise. It was the first time that he had seen him aroused.
"It wasn't funny at all," Hugh repeated; "it was just filthy. I'd 'a' just about died if I'd 'a' been in Wilkins's place. The poor kid! They're too damn dirty, these sophomores. I didn't think that college men could be so dirty. Why, not even the bums at home would think of such things. And I'm telling you right now that there are three of those guys that I'm layin' for. Just wait till the class rush. I'm going to get Adams, and then I'm going to get Cooper—yes, I'm going to get him even if he is bigger'n me—and I'm going to get Dodge. I didn't say anything when they made me wash my face in the toilet bowl, but, by God! I'm going to get 'em for it."
Three weeks later he made good this threat. He was a clever boxer, and he succeeded in separating each of the malefactors from the fighting mob. He would have been completely nonplussed if he could have heard Adams and Dodge talking in their room after the rush.
"Who gave you the black eye?" Adams asked Dodge.
"That freshman Carver," he replied, touching the eye gingerly. "Who gave you that welt on the chin?"
"Carver! And, say, he beat Hi Cooper to a pulp. He's a mess."
They looked at each other and burst out laughing.
"Lord," said Dodge, "I'm going to pick my freshmen next time. Who'd take a kid with a smile like his to be a scrapper? He's got the nicest smile in college. Why, he looks meek as a lamb."
"You never can tell," remarked Adams, rubbing his chin ruefully.
Dodge was examining his eye in the mirror. "No, you never can tell.... Damn it, I'm going to have to get a beefsteak or something for this lamp of mine."
"Say, he ought to be a good man for the fraternity," Adams said suddenly.
"Who?" Dodge's eye was absorbing his entire attention.
"Carver, of course. He ought to make a damn good man."
"Yeah—you bet. We've got to rush him sure."
The dormitory initiations had more than angered Hugh; they had completely upset his mental equilibrium: his every ideal of college swayed and wabbled. He wasn't a prig, but he had come to Sanford with very definite ideas about the place, and those ideas were already groggy from the unmerciful pounding they were receiving.
His father was responsible for his illusions, if one may call them illusions. Mr. Carver was a shy, sensitive man well along in his fifties, with a wife twelve years his junior. He pretended to cultivate his small farm in Merrytown, but as a matter of fact he lived off of a comfortable income left him by his very capable father. He spent most of his time reading the eighteenth-century essayists, John Donne's poetry, the "Atlantic Monthly," the "Boston Transcript," and playing Mozart on his violin. He did not understand his wife and was thoroughly afraid of his son; Hugh had an animal vigor that at times almost terrified him.
At his wife's insistence he had a talk with Hugh the night before the boy left for college. Hugh had wanted to run when he met his father in the library after dinner for that talk. He loved the gentle, gray-haired man with the fine, delicate features and soft voice. He had often wished that he knew his father. Mr. Carver was equally eager to know Hugh, but he had no idea of how to go about getting acquainted with his son.
They sat on opposite sides of the fireplace, and Mr. Carver gazed thoughtfully at the boy. Why hadn't Betty had this talk with Hugh? She knew him so much better than he did; they were more like brother and sister than mother and son. Why, Hugh called her Betty half the time, and she seemed to understand him perfectly.
Hugh waited silently. Mr. Carver ran a thin hand through his hair and then sharply desisted; he mustn't let the boy know that he was nervous. Then he settled his horn-rimmed pince-nez more firmly on his nose and felt in his waistcoat for a cigar. Why didn't Hugh say something? He snipped the end of the cigar with a silver knife. Slowly he lighted the cigar, inhaled once or twice, coughed mildly, and finally found his voice.
"Well, Hugh," he said in his gentle way.
"Well, Dad." Hugh grinned sheepishly. Then they both started; Hugh had never called his father Dad before. He thought of him that way always, but he could never bring himself to dare anything but the more formal Father. In his embarrassment he had forgotten himself.
"I—I—I'm sorry, sir," he stuttered, flushing painfully.
Mr. Carver laughed to hide his own embarrassment. "That's all right, Hugh." His smile was very kindly. "Let it be Dad. I think I like it better."
"That's fine!" Hugh exclaimed.
The tension was broken, and Mr. Carver began to give the dreaded talk.
"I hardly know what to say to you, Hugh," he began, "on the eve of your going away to college. There is so much that you ought to know, and I have no idea of how much you know already."
Hugh thought of all the smutty stories he had heard—and told. Instinctively he knew that his father referred to what a local doctor called "the facts of life."
He hung his head and said gruffly, "I guess I know a good deal—Dad."
"That's splendid!" Mr. Carver felt the full weight of a father's responsibilities lifted from his shoulders. "I believe Dr. Hanson gave you a talk at school about—er, sex, didn't he?"
"Yes, sir." Hugh was picking out the design in the rug with the toe of his shoe and at the same time unconsciously pinching his leg. He pinched so hard that he afterward found a black and blue spot, but he never knew how it got there.
"Excellent thing, excellent thing, these talks by medical men." He was beginning to feel at ease. "Excellent thing. I am glad that you are so well informed; you are old enough."
Hugh wasn't well informed; he was pathetically ignorant. Most of what he knew had come from the smutty stories, and he often did not understand the stories that he laughed at most heartily. He was consumed with curiosity.
"If there is anything you want to know, don't hesitate to ask," his father continued. He had a moment of panic lest Hugh would ask something, but the boy merely shook his head—and pinched his leg.
Mr. Carver puffed his cigar in great relief. "Well," he continued, "I don't want to give you much advice, but your mother feels that I ought to tell you a little more about college before you leave. As I have told you before, Sanford is a splendid place, a—er, a splendid place. Fine old traditions and all that sort of thing. Splendid place. You will find a wonderful faculty, wonderful. Most of the professors I had are gone, but I am sure that the new ones are quite as good. Your opportunities will be enormous, and I am sure that you will take advantage of them. We have been very proud of your high school record, your mother and I, and we know that you will do quite as well in college. By the way, I hope you take a course in the eighteenth-century essayists; you will find them very stimulating—Addison especially.
"I—er, your mother feels that I ought to say something about the dissipations of college. I—I'm sure that I don't know what to say. I suppose that there are young men in college who dissipate—remember that I knew one or two—but certainly most of them are gentlemen. Crude men—vulgarians do not commonly go to college. Vulgarity has no place in college. You may, I presume, meet some men not altogether admirable, but it will not be necessary for you to know them. Now, as to the fraternity...."
Hugh forgot to pinch his leg and looked up with avid interest in his face. The Nu Deltas!
Mr. Carver leaned forward to stir the fire with a brass poker before he continued. Then he settled back in his chair and smoked comfortably. He was completely at ease now. The worst was over.
"I have written to the Nu Deltas about you and told them that I hoped that they would find you acceptable, as I am sure they will. As a legacy, you will be among the first considered." For an hour more he talked about the fraternity. Hugh, his embarrassment swallowed by his interest, eagerly asking questions. His father's admiration for the fraternity was second only to his admiration for the college, and before the evening was over he had filled Hugh with an idolatry for both.
He left his father that night feeling closer to him than he ever had before. He was going to be a college man like his father—perhaps a Nu Delta, too. He wished that they had got chummy before. When he went to bed, he lay awake dreaming, thinking sometimes of Helen Simpson and of how he had kissed her that afternoon, but more often of Sanford and Nu Delta. He was so deeply grateful to his father for talking to him frankly and telling him everything about college. He was darned lucky to have a father who was a college grad and could put him wise. It was pretty tough on the fellows whose fathers had never been to college. Poor fellows, they didn't know the ropes the way he did....
He finally fell off to sleep, picturing himself in the doorway of the Nu Delta house welcoming his father to a reunion.
That talk was returning to Hugh repeatedly. He wondered if Sanford had changed since his father's day or if his father had just forgotten what college was like. Everything seemed so different from what he had been told to expect. Perhaps he was just soft and some of the fellows weren't as crude as he thought they were.
Hugh was by no means continuously depressed; as a matter of fact, most of the time he was agog with delight, especially over the rallies that were occurring with increasing frequency as the football season progressed. Sometimes the rallies were carefully prepared ceremonies held in the gymnasium; sometimes they were entirely spontaneous.
A group of men would rush out of a dormitory or fraternity house yelling, "Peerade, peerade!" Instantly every one within hearing would drop his books—or his cards—and rush to the yelling group, which would line up in fours and begin circling the campus, the line ever getting longer as more men came running out of the dormitories and fraternity houses. On, on they would go, arm in arm, dancing, singing Sanford songs, past every dormitory on the campus, past every fraternity house—pausing occasionally to give a cheer, always, however, keeping one goal in mind, the fraternity house where the team lived during the football season. Then when the cheer-leaders and the team were heading the procession, the mob would make for the football field, with the cry of "Wood, freshmen, wood!" ringing down the line.
Hugh was always one of the first freshmen to break from the line in his eagerness to get wood. In an incredibly short time he and his classmates had found a large quantity of old lumber, empty boxes, rotten planks, and not very rotten gates. When a light was applied to the clumsy pile of wood, the flames leaped up quickly—some one always seemed to have a supply of kerosene ready—and revealed the excited upper-classmen sitting on the bleachers.
"Dance, freshmen, dance!"
Then the freshmen danced around the fire, holding hands and spreading into an ever widening circle as the fire crackled and the flames leaped upward. Slowly, almost impressively, the upper-classmen chanted:
"Round the fire, the freshmen go, Freshmen go, Freshmen go; Round the fire the freshmen go To cheer Sanford."
The song had a dozen stanzas, only the last line of each being different. The freshmen danced until the last verse was sung, which ended with the Sanford cheer:
"Closer now the freshmen go, Freshmen go, Freshmen go; Closer now the freshmen go To cheer—
SANFORD! Sanford! Rah, rah! Sanford! Sanford! San—San—San— San—ford, San—ford—San—FORD!"
While the upper-classmen were singing the last stanza the freshmen slowly closed in on the dying fire. At the first word of the cheer, they stopped, turned toward the grand stand, and joined the cheering. That over, they broke and ran for the bleachers, scrambling up the wooden stands, shoving each other out of the way, laughing and shouting.
The football captain usually made a short and very awkward speech, which was madly applauded; perhaps the coach said a few words; two or three cheers were given; and finally every one rose, took off his hat if he wore one—nearly every one but the freshmen went bareheaded—and sang the college hymn, simply and religiously. Then the crowd broke, straggling in groups across the campus, chatting, singing, shouting to each other. Suddenly lights began to flash in the dormitory windows. In less than an hour after the first cry of "Peerade!" the men were back in their rooms, once more studying, talking, or playing cards.
It was the smoker rallies, though, that Hugh found the most thrilling, especially the last one before the final game of the season, the "big game" with Raleigh College. There were 1123 students in Sanford, and more than 1000 were at the rally. A rough platform had been built at one end of the gymnasium. On one side of it sat the band, on the other side the Glee Club—and before it the mass of students, smoking cigarettes, corn-cob pipes, and, occasionally, a cigar. The "smokes" had been furnished free by a local tobacconist; so everybody smoked violently and too much. In half an hour it was almost impossible to see the ceiling through the dull blue haze, and the men in the rear of the gymnasium saw the speakers on the platform dimly through a wavering mist.
The band played various Sanford songs, and everybody sang. Occasionally Wayne Gifford, the cheer-leader, leaped upon the platform, raised a megaphone to his mouth, and shouted, "A regular cheer for Sanford—a regular cheer for Sanford." Then he lifted his arms above his head, flinging the megaphone aside with the same motion, and waited tense and rigid until the students were on their feet. Suddenly he turned into a mad dervish, twisting, bending, gesticulating, leaping, running back and forth across the platform, shouting, and finally throwing his hands above his head and springing high into the air at the concluding "San—FORD!"
The Glee Club sang to mad applause; a tenor twanged a ukulele and moaned various blues; a popular professor told stories, some of them funny, most of them slightly off color; a former cheer-leader told of the triumphs of former Sanford teams—and the atmosphere grew denser and denser, bluer and bluer, as the smoke wreathed upward. The thousand boys leaned intently forward, occasionally jumping to their feet to shout and cheer, and then sinking back into their chairs, tense and excited. As each speaker mounted the platform they shouted: "Off with your coat! Off with your coat!" And the speakers, even the professor, had to shed their coats before they were permitted to say a word.
When the team entered, bedlam broke loose. Every student stood on his chair, waved his arms, slapped his neighbor on the back or hugged him wildly, threw his hat in the air, if he had one—and, so great was his training, keeping an eye on the cheer-leader, who was on the platform going through a series of indescribable contortions. Suddenly he straightened up, held his hands above his head again, and shouted through his megaphone: "A regular cheer for the team—a regular cheer for the team. Make it big—BIG! Ready—!" Away whirled the megaphone, and he went through exactly the same performance that he had used before in conducting the regular cheer. Gifford looked like an inspired madman, but he knew exactly what he was doing. The students cheered lustily, so lustily that some of them were hoarse the next day. They continued to yell after the cheer was completed, ceasing only when Gifford signaled for silence.
Then there were speeches by each member of the team, all enthusiastically applauded, and finally the speech of the evening, that of the coach, Jack Price. He was a big, compactly built man with regular features, heavy blond hair, and pale, cold blue eyes. He threw off his coat with a belligerent gesture, stuck his hands into his trousers pockets, and waited rigidly until the cheering had subsided. Then he began:
"Go ahead and yell. It's easy as hell to cheer here in the gym; but what are you going to do Saturday afternoon?"
His voice was sharp with sarcasm, and to the shouts of "Yell! Fight!" that came from all over the gymnasium, he answered, "Yeah, maybe—maybe." He shifted his position, stepping toward the front of the platform, thrusting his hands deeper into his pockets.
"I've seen a lot of football games, and I've seen lots of rooters, but this is the goddamndest gang of yellow-bellied quitters that I've ever seen. What happened last Saturday when we were behind? I'm asking you; what happened? You quit! Quit like a bunch of whipped curs. God! you're yellow, yellow as hell. But the team went on fighting—and it won, won in spite of you, won for a bunch of yellow pups. And why? Because the team's got guts. And when it was all over, you cheered and howled and serpentined and felt big as hell. Lord Almighty! you acted as if you'd done something."
His right hand came out of his pocket with a jerk, and he extended a fighting, clenched fist toward his breathless audience. "I'll tell you something," he said slowly, viciously; "the team can't win alone day after to-morrow. It can't win alone! You've got to fight. Damn it! You've got to fight! Raleigh's good, damn good; it hasn't lost a game this season—and we've got to win, win! Do you hear? We've got to win! And there's only one way that we can win, and that's with every man back of the team. Every goddamned mother's son of you. The team's good, but it can't win unless you fight—fight!"
Suddenly his voice grew softer, almost gentle. He held out both hands to the boys, who had become so tense that they had forgotten to smoke. "We've got to win, fellows, for old Sanford. Are you back of us?"
"Yes!" The tension shattered into a thousand yells. The boys leaped on the chairs and shouted until they could shout no more. When Gifford called for "a regular cheer for Jack Price" and then one for the team—"Make it the biggest you ever gave"—they could respond with only a hoarse croak.
Finally the hymn was sung—at least, the boys tried loyally to sing it—and they stood silent and almost reverent as the team filed out of the gymnasium.
Hugh walked back to Surrey Hall with several men. No one said a word except a quiet good night as they parted. Carl was in the room when he arrived. He sank into a chair and was silent for a few minutes.
Finally he said in a happy whisper, "Wasn't it wonderful, Carl?"
"Un-huh. Damn good."
"Gosh, I hope we win. We've got to!"
Carl looked up, his cheeks redder than usual, his eyes glittering. "God, yes!" he breathed piously.
The football season lasted from the first of October to the latter part of November, and during those weeks little was talked about, or even thought about, on the campus but football. There were undergraduates who knew the personnel of virtually every football team in the country, the teams that had played against each other, their relative merits, the various scores, the outstanding players of each position. Half the students at Sanford regularly made out "All American" teams, and each man was more than willing to debate the quality of his team against that of any other. Night after night the students gathered in groups in dormitory rooms and fraternity houses, discussing football, football, football; even religion and sex, the favorite topics for "bull sessions," could not compete with football, especially when some one mentioned Raleigh College. Raleigh was Sanford's ancient rival; to defeat her was of cosmic importance.
There was a game every Saturday. About half the time the team played at home; the other games were played on the rivals' fields. No matter how far away the team traveled, the college traveled with it. The men who had the necessary money went by train; a few owned automobiles: but most of the undergraduates had neither an automobile nor money for train fare. They "bummed" their way. Some of them emulated professional tramps, and "rode the beams," but most of them started out walking, trusting that kind-hearted motorists would pick them up and carry them at least part way to their destination. Although the distances were sometimes great, and although many motorists are not kind, there is no record of any man who ever started for a game not arriving in time for the referee's first whistle. Somehow, by hook or by crook—and it was often by crook—the boys got there, and, what is more astonishing, they got back. On Monday morning at 8:45 they were in chapel, usually worn and tired, it is true, ready to bluff their way through the day's assignments, and damning any instructor who was heartless enough to give them a quiz. Some of them were worn out from really harsh traveling experiences; some of them had more exciting adventures to relate behind closed doors to selected groups of confidants.
Football! Nothing else mattered. And as the weeks passed, the excitement grew, especially as the day drew near for the Raleigh game, which this year was to be played on the Sanford field. What were Sanford's chances? Would Harry Slade, Sanford's great half-back, make All American? "Damn it to hell, he ought to. It'll be a stinkin' shame if he don't." Would Raleigh's line be able to stop Slade's end runs? Slade! Slade! He was the team, the hope and adoration of the whole college.
Three days before the "big game" the alumni began to pour into town, most of them fairly recent graduates, but many of them gray-haired men who boasted that they hadn't missed a Sanford-Raleigh game in thirty years. Hundreds of alumni arrived, filling the two hotels to capacity and overrunning the fraternity houses, the students doubling up or seeking hospitality from a friend in a dormitory.
In the little room in the rear of the Sanford Pool and Billiard Parlors there was almost continual excitement. Jim McCarty, the proprietor, a big, jovial, red-faced man whom all the students called Mac, was the official stake-holder for the college. Bets for any amount could be placed with him. Money from Raleigh flowed into his pudgy hands, and he placed it at the odds offered with eager Sanford takers. By the day of the game his safe held thousands of dollars, most of it wagered at five to three, Raleigh offering odds. There was hardly an alumnus who did not prove his loyalty to Sanford by visiting Mac's back room and putting down a few greenbacks, at least. Some were more loyal than others; the most loyal placed a thousand dollars—at five to two.
There was rain for two days before the game, but on Friday night the clouds broke. A full moon seemed to shine them away, and the whole campus rejoiced with great enthusiasm. Most of the alumni got drunk to show their deep appreciation to the moon, and many of the undergraduates followed the example set by their elders.
All Friday afternoon girls had been arriving, dozens of them, to attend the fraternity dances. One dormitory had been set aside for them, the normal residents seeking shelter in other dormitories. No man ever objected to resigning his room to a girl. He never could tell what he would find when he returned to it Monday morning. Some of the girls left strange mementos....
No one except a few notorious grinds studied that night. Some of the students were, of course, at the fraternity dances; some of them sat in dormitory rooms and discussed the coming game from every possible angle; and groups of them wandered around the campus, peering into the fraternity houses, commenting on the girls, wandering on humming a song that an orchestra had been playing, occasionally pausing to give a "regular cheer" for the moon.
Hugh was too much excited to stay in a room; so with several other freshmen he traveled the campus. He passionately envied the dancers in the fraternity houses but consoled himself with the thought, "Maybe I'll be dancing at the Nu Delt house next year." Then he had a spasm of fright. Perhaps the Nu Delts—perhaps no fraternity would bid him. The moon lost its brilliance; for a moment even the Sanford-Raleigh game was forgotten.
The boys were standing before a fraternity house, and as the music ceased, Jack Collings suggested: "Let's serenade them. You lead, Hugh."
Hugh had a sweet, light tenor voice. It was not at all remarkable, just clear and true; but he had easily made the Glee Club and had an excellent chance to be chosen freshman song-leader.
Collings had brought a guitar with him. He handed it to Hugh, who, like most musical undergraduates, could play both a guitar and a banjo. "Sing that 'I arise from dreams of thee' thing that you were singing the other night. We'll hum."
Hugh slipped the cord around his neck, tuned the guitar, and then thrummed a few opening chords. His heart was beating at double time; he was very happy: he was serenading girls at a fraternity dance. Couples were strolling out upon the veranda, the girls throwing warm wraps over their shoulders, the men lighting cigarettes and tossing the burnt matches on the lawn. Their white shirt-fronts gleamed eerily in the pale light cast by the Japanese lanterns with which the veranda was hung.