Keg went home with one of us for the semester holidays. And at commencement time he wrote an affectionate letter home to his volcanic old sire, and told him that he was going to stride forth into the unappreciative world and yank a living away from it that summer. That was the great ambition of almost every Siwash boy. When we weren't thinking of girls and exams in the blissful spring days, we were stalking some summer job to its lair and sitting down to wait for it. There wasn't anything that a Siwash boy wouldn't tackle in the summer vacation. The farmer boys had a cinch, of course. They were skilled laborers; and, besides, they came back in the fall in perfect condition for the football squad. Some of the town boys became street-car conductors. The new railroad that was built into Jonesville about that time was a bonanza for us. It was no uncommon thing, the summer of my Sophomore year, to find a dozen muddy society leaders shoveling dirt in a construction crew and singing that grand old hymn composed by Petey Simmons, which ran as follows:
I've a blister on me heel, and me beak's begun to peel; I've an ache for every bone that's in me back. I've a feeling I could eat rubber hose and call it sweet, And me hands is warped from lugging bits of track.
Oh, me closes they are tore, and me shoulders they are sore, And I sometimes wish that I had died a 'borning'; And me eye is full of dirt, and there's gravel in me shirt, But I'm going back to Siwash in the mor-r-r-r-r-r-r-rning.
One of our own boys is a division superintendent on one of the big western roads to-day, and he caught the railroad microbe in the shovel gang.
The boys got newspaper positions and clerked in the stores, and one or two of them tooted cornets or other disturbances at summer-resort hotels. One junior, during my time, aroused the envy of the whole college by painting the steeple of the First Baptist Church during vacation; and when he finished the job his class numerals were painted in big letters on top of the ornamental knob that tipped the spire. At least, so he announced, and no rival class had the nerve to investigate.
But the most popular road to prosperity during the summer was the canvassing route. About the last of April various smooth young college chaps from other schools would drift into Siwash and begin to sign up agents for the summer. There were three favorite lines—books, stereopticon slides and a patent combination desk, blackboard, sewing-table, snow-shovel, trundle-bed and ironing-board—which was sold in vast numbers at that time by students all over the country. All through May the agents fished for victims. They signed them up with contracts guaranteeing them back-breaking profits, and then instructed them with great care in a variety of speeches. Speech No. 1, introductory. Speech No. 2, to women. Speech No. 3, clinching talk for waverers. Speech No. 4, to parents. Speech No. 5, rebuttal to argument that victim already has enough reading matter. Speech No. 6, general appeal to patriotism and love of progress. Then on Commencement day the hopeful young collegians would go forth to argue with the calm and unresponsive farmer's wife and sell her something that she had never needed and had never wanted, until hypnotized by the classic eloquence of a bright-eyed young man with his foot in the crack of the half-opened door.
I chose the book game one summer, and went out with about thirty others. Twenty-five of them quit at the end of the first week. That was about the usual proportion—but the rest of us stuck. I devastated a swath of territory fifty miles wide and a hundred miles long. I talked, argued, persuaded, plead, threatened and mesmerized. I sold books to men on twine binders, to women with their hands in the bread dough, and once, after a farmer had come grudgingly out to rescue me from his dog, I sold a book to him from a tree. I worked two months, tramped four hundred miles, told the same story of impassioned praise for and confidence in my book eleven hundred times, and sold sixty-five volumes at a gross profit of seventy-nine dollars—my expenses being eighty dollars even. But it was worth the effort. I was a shy young thing at the beginning of the summer, who believed that strangers would invariably bite when spoken to. When school began I was a tanned pirate who believed the world belonged to him who could grab it, and who would have walked up to a duke and sold him a book on practical farming with as much assurance as if it were a subpoena I was serving.
Keg went out with the desk crowd, and it was evident from the first minute that he was going to return a plutocrat. He sold a desk to the train brakeman on his way to his field, and another to a kind old gentleman who incautiously got into conversation with him. He raged through four counties like a plague, selling desks in farmhouses, public libraries, harness stores, banks and old folks' homes. He was the season's sensation and won a prize every month from the proud and happy company. When he had finished collecting he took a hasty run to Denver on a sight-seeing trip, and came back to Siwash that fall in a parlor car, with something over four hundred dollars in his jeans.
Naturally we would have ceased worrying about the probability of keeping Keg with us then if we had not done so long before. As a matter of fact, he was more prosperous than any of us. He had made his own money and he drew his own checks when he pleased, instead of taking them the first of the month wrapped up in a cayenne coating composed of parental remarks on extravagance and laziness. He gave away all of his little jobs to the rest of us first thing, and said he was content with what he had; but, pshaw!—when a man has the gift he can't dodge prosperity. Keg had to manage the college paper that year because no one else could do it quite so well; and it netted him about fifty dollars a month. When the glee-club manager got cold feet over the poor prospects, Keg backed a trip himself—and I hate to say how much he cleared from it. That was the first year we swept the West with our famous football team of trained mastodons; and at the earnest solicitation of about a dozen daily papers here and there, Keg dashed off something like one hundred yards of football dope at five dollars a column—sort of a literary hundred-yard dash. He used to write it between bites at the dinner table. And then to top off everything, his precious desk company came along and stole him from us early in April. It considered him too valuable a man to tramp the country selling desks, while there were other young collegians who only needed the touch of a magic tongue to get them into the great calling. So Keg made a tour of Kiowa and Muggledorfer and Hambletonian and Ogallala colleges, lining up canvassers at a net profit of something like fifty dollars per head—full or empty. When he blew in at the end of the year to spend Commencement week with us he was nothing short of an amateur Croesus. He bulged with wealth. I remember yet the awe with which the rest of us, hoarding our last nickels at the end of the long and billful year, took a peep at the balance in his checkbook and touched him humbly for advances, great and small.
Keg had gone out the second evening of Commencement week to bring a little pleasure into the barren life of a girl who hadn't been shown any attention by any one for upward of four hours. The rest of the boys were also away scattering seeds of kindness in a similar manner, and so I was alone when Pa Rearick stumped up the walk to the chapter-house porch and glared at me.
"I want to see my boy," he said, out of the corner of his beard. He seemed to suspect that I had made him into a meat pie or otherwise done away with him.
"He's out," I said, not very scared; "but if you want to wait for him, won't you make yourself quite at home?"
He took a seat on the porch without a word. I went on smoking a cigarette in my most abandoned style and saying all I had to say, which was nothing. After a while Pa Rearick glared over at me again in a most belligerent manner.
"Is he well?" he asked.
"Finer'n silk," I answered, most disrespectfully.
"Humph!" said he; which, being freely translated, seemed to mean: "If I had an impudent, lazy, immoral, shiftless, unlicked cub like you, I'd grind him up for hen feed."
Much more silence. I lit another cigarette.
"Does he get enough to eat?"
"When he has time," I said. "He's generally pretty busy."
"Playing the mandolin, I suppose."
"Most of the time," said I. "He runs the college in his odd moments."
"He wouldn't have run the Siwash I went to," said Pa Rearick grimly.
"No," said I, "you egregious timber-head, he'd have spent his time limping after Homer." But as I said it only to myself, no one was insulted.
"Has he learned anything?" said old Hostilities, after some more silence.
"Took the Sophomore Greek prize this year," I said, blowing one of the most perfect smoke rings I had ever achieved.
"I don't believe it," said Pa Rearick deliberately.
I blew another ring that was very fair, but it lacked the perfect double whirl of the first one. And presently the neatest spider phaeton that was owned by a Jonesville livery stable drew up before the house and Keg jumped out, telling a delicious chiffon vision to hold old Bucephalus until he got his topcoat. Keg was a good dresser, but I never saw him quite as letter-perfect and wholly immaculate as he was just then. He hurried up the steps, took one look, and yelled "Dad," then made a rush; and I went inside to see if I couldn't beat that smoke ring where there was not so much atmospheric disturbance.
* * * * *
Pa Rearick stayed the rest of the week, and after he had interviewed certain professors the next day he moved over to the house and stayed with us. Mrs. Rearick came down, too, and on this account we didn't see quite as much of Keg as we had hoped to. The girl in chiffon didn't, either, but that's neither here nor there. She was only a passing fancy, anyway. By successive degrees Keg's father viewed the rest of us with disapproval, suspicion, tolerance, benevolence, interest and friendliness. But I am convinced that it was only on Keg's account. He gave us credit for exercising unexpected good taste in liking him. And maybe it wasn't interesting to see him thaw and melt and struggle with a stiff, wintry smile, as a young man does with his first mustache, and finally give himself up unreservedly to fatherly pride. When a father has religiously put away these things all his life for fear of spoiling a son, and finally finds that that son is unspoilable, even by friendliness and parental tenderness, he has a lot of pleasure to indulge himself in during his remaining years.
It was like the old fire-eater to call us together before he went and punished himself. I suppose it was his sense of justice which was too keen for any good use. "I've misjudged my son," he said to us; "and I want to make public admission of it. I am perhaps a little out of date—a little old-fashioned. The world didn't move so fast when I was a boy here. When I was in school we saved our money and studied. My son tells me he can't afford to save money—that time is too precious. I don't pretend to understand all your ways, but he seems to think you have been good to him and I want to thank you for it. My son has made his way alone these two years. I threw him out to support himself. When I casually mentioned yesterday that times were very hard in the business just now, he wanted to put five hundred dollars into it. I want you to know I'm proud of him. I hope you young gentlemen will feel free to stop and visit us when you come through our town. I must say, times seem to have changed."
Right he was. Times have changed. And here I have been dunderheading along in just his way, imagining that I was pacing them, instead of sitting on the fence and watching them go by. If I can find that little Sophomore who insulted me this morning, I'm going to make him come to dinner and tell me some more about the way they do things this afternoon. As for to-morrow—what does he or any one else know about it?
As a rule there is only about one thing to mar the joy of college days and nights and early mornings. That is the Faculty. Honestly, I used to sit up until long after bedtime every little while trying to figure out some real reason for a college Faculty. They interfere so. They are so inappropriate. Moreover, they are so confoundedly ignorant of college life.
How a professor can go through an assorted collection of brain stufferies, get so many college degrees that his name looks like Halley's Comet with an alphabet tail, and then teach college students for forty years without even taking one of them apart to find out what he is made of, beats my time! That's a college professor for you, right through. He thinks of a college student only as something to teach—whereas, of all the nineteen hundred and eighty-seven things a college student is, that is about the least important to his notion. A boy might be a cipher message on an early Assyrian brick and stand a far better chance of being understood by his professor.
A college Faculty is a collection of brains tied together by a firm resolve—said resolve being to find out what miscreant put plaster of Paris in the keyhole of the president's door. It is a wet blanket on a joyous life; it is a sort of penance provided by Providence to make a college boy forget that he's glad he's alive. It's a hypodermic syringe through which the student is supposed to get wisdom. It takes the place of conscience after you've been destroying college property. When I sum it all up it seems to me that a college Faculty is a dark, rainy cloud in the middle of a beautiful May morning—at least that's the way the Faculty looked to me when I was a humble seeker after the truth in Siwash College.
The Faculty was to boys in Siwash what indigestion is to a jolly good fellow in the restaurant district. It was always either among us or getting ready to land on us. Our Faculty had thirty-two profs and thirty-three pairs of spectacles. It also had two good average heads of hair and considerable whiskers. It could figure out a perihelion or a Latin bill-of-fare in a minute, but you ought to hear it stutter when it tried to map out the daily relaxations of a college full of husky young hurricanes, who had come to school to learn what life looks like from the inside. Fairy tales in the German and tea and wafers with quotations looked like a jolly good time to the Faculty; and it couldn't understand why some of us liked to put gunpowder in the tea.
Now don't understand me to say that there isn't anything good about a college professor. Bless you, no! There's a lot of it. A Faculty is a lot of college profs in a state of inflammation, but individually most of the Siwash profs were nearly human at times. I look back at some of them now with awe. They really knew a lot. They knew so much that most of them are there yet; and I go back and look at them with a good deal more respect than I used to have. I'll tell you it fills a chap with awe to see a man teaching along for twenty years at eighteen hundred dollars per, and raising children, and buying books, and going off to Europe now and then on that princely sum—and coming through it all happy and content with life. I go around them nowadays with my hat off and try to persuade them that if it wasn't for my sprained arm I could quote Latin almost as well as the stone dog in front of Prexy's house.
And some of them are bully good fellows, too. Nowadays they take me into their studies at Commencement and give me good cigars, making sure first that there are no undergraduates around. Why, one of the profs I worried the most, when I was a cross between a Sophomore and a spotted hyena, is as glad to see me nowadays as though I owed him money. He runs a little automobile, and I hope I may get laid out in the subway if I haven't heard him cuss in real United States when the clutch slipped. And he was the chap who used to pick out the passages in Livy that had inflammatory rheumatism and make me recite on them, and who always told me that a student who smoked cigarettes would be making a wise business move if he brought his hat to recitation and left the less important part of his head at home.
But, as I was saying, the Faculty at Siwash, like all other Faculties, didn't know its place. It wasn't satisfied with teaching us Greek and Latin and Evidences of Christianity and tall-brow twaddle of all sorts. It had to butt into our athletics and regulate them. Did you ever see a farmer regulate a weed patch with a hoe? You know how unhealthy it is for the weeds. Well, that was the way the Faculty regulated our athletics. It didn't believe in athletics anyway. They were too interesting. They might not have been sinful, but they were not literary and they were uneconomic. Of course all the professors admitted that good outdoor exercise was healthy for college boys, but most of them believed that you ought to get it in the college library out of Nature books. And so the way they went at the real athletics, to keep them pure and healthful, almost drove us into the violent ward.
Those were the days at Siwash when our football team could start out for a pleasant stroll through any teams in our section and wonder after it had passed the goal line, why those undersized fellows had been jogging their elbows all the way down the field. That was the kind of a team we built up every fall; and it wasn't half so much trouble to keep other teams from beating it as it was to keep the Faculty from blowing it to pieces with non-eligibility notices. There was something diabolical about that Faculty when it was wrestling with the athletic problem. It wasn't human. It was like Mount Etna. You never could tell just when it would stop being lovely and quiet, and scatter ruin all over the vicinity.
Its idea of regulating athletics at Siwash was to think up excuses for flunking every man who weighed over one hundred and fifty-five and could have his toes stepped on without saying "Ouch!" And it never got the excuses thought up until the night before the most important games. The Faculty pretended to be as bland and innocent as Mary's lamb, but no one can ever tell me it didn't know what it was about. Men have to have real genius to think up the things it did. You couldn't do it accidentally. When a Siwash Faculty could moon along happily all fall until twenty-four hours before the Kiowa game and then discover with regret that our two-hundred-and-twenty-pound center had misspelled three words in an examination paper the year before; that our two-hundred-pound backs didn't put enough rear-end collisions into their words when they read French; and that Ole Skjarsen read Latin with a Norwegian accent and was therefore too big an ignoramus to play football, I decline to be fooled. I never was fooled. Neither was Keg Rearick. But that is hurdling about three chapters.
Honestly, we used to spend one day out of six building up our football team and the other five defending it from the Faculty. It positively hungered for a bite out of the line-up. It had us helpless. If we didn't like the way it ran things we could take our happy young college life up by the roots and transplant it to some other school, where the football team moved around the field like a parade. Theoretically the Faculty could sit around and take our best players off the team, as fast as we developed them, for non-attention to studies. But, as a matter of fact, it wasn't an easy matter. It beats all how early in the morning you have to get up to get ahead of college lads who have got it into their heads that the world will gum up on its axle and stop dead still if their innocent little pleasures are interfered with.
I remember the fall that the Faculty decided Miller couldn't play because he hadn't attended chapel quite persistently enough the spring before. Miller was our center and as important to the team that year as the mainspring of a watch. The ponderous brain trust that sat on this case didn't decide it until the day before the big game with Muggledorfer; then they practically ruled that he would have to go back to last spring and take his chapel all over again. It took us all night to sidestep that outrage, but we did it. The next morning an indignation committee of fifty students met the Faculty and presented alibis that were invincible. It was demonstrated by a cloud of witnesses that Miller had been absent nine times hand-running because he had been sitting up nights with a sick chum. The Faculty was inexperienced that year and let him play; but, when it found out the next day by consulting the records that the chum had attended chapel every one of those nine mornings, it got more particular than ever and its heart seemed to harden.
On the day before the Thanksgiving game that year the Faculty held a long meeting and decided that our two guards were ineligible. There wasn't a word of truth in it. They weighed two hundred and twenty pounds apiece and were eligible to the All-American team, but you couldn't make the human lexicons look at it that way. They found them deficient in trigonometry and canned them off the team. It was an outrage, because the two chaps didn't know what trigonometry meant even and couldn't take an examination. We had to call the trig. professor out of town by a telegram that morning and then have the suspended men demand an immediate examination. That worked, too; but every time we managed to preserve a glory of old Siwash, the Faculty seemed to get a little more crabby and unreasonable and diabolically persisted in its determination to regulate athletics.
The next fall it was well understood when football practice began that there was going to be war to the knife between the Faculty and the football team. We were meek and resigned to trouble, but you can bet we were not going to sit around and embrace it. The longest heads in the school made themselves into a sort of an unofficial sidestepping committee; and we decided that if the Faculty succeeded in massacring our football team they would have to outpoint, outfoot, outflank and outscheme the whole school. Just to draw their fire, we advertised the first practice game as a deadly combat, in which the honor of Old Siwash was at stake. It was just a little romp with the State Normal, which had a team that would have had to use aeroplanes to get past our ends; but the Faculty bit. It held a special session that night and declared the center, the two backs and the captain ineligible because they had not prepared orations the spring before at the request of the rhetoric professor. That was first blood for us. We chased the Normalites all over the lot with a scrub team and Keg Rearick sat up nights the next week writing the orations. The result was we got four fine new dry-cleaned records for our four star players and the Faculty was so pleased with their fine work on those orations that we could scarcely live with it for a week.
That was only a skirmish, however. We knew very well that the sacred cause of education would come right back at us and we decided to be elsewhere when it struck its next blow for progress. We talked it all over with Bost, the coach, and the result was that a week before the Muggledorfer game, the last week in September, Bost gave out his line-up for the season in chapel. There were a good many surprises in the line-up to some of us. It seemed funny that Miller shouldn't make the team out and that Ole Skjarsen should have been left off; but the best of men will slump, as Bost explained, and he had picked the team that he thought would do the most good for Siwash. It was a team that I wouldn't have hired to chase a Shanghai rooster out of a garden patch, but the blind and happy Faculty didn't stop to reason about its excellence. It held a meeting the night before the Muggledorfer game and suspended nine of the men for inattention to chapel, smoking cigarettes during vacation and other high crimes. The whole school roared with indignation. Bost appeared before the Faculty meeting and almost shook his fist in Prexy's face. He told the Faculty that it was the greatest crime of the nineteenth century; and the Faculty told him in very high-class language to go chase himself. So Bost went sorrowfully out and put in the regular team as substitutes. The next day we whipped Muggledorfer 80 to 0.
I think that would have discouraged the Faculty if it hadn't been for Professor Sillcocks. Did I ever tell you about Professor Sillcocks? It's a shame if I haven't, because every one is the better and nobler for hearing about him. He was about a nickel's worth of near-man with Persian-lamb whiskers and the disposition of a pint of modified milk. Crickets were bold and quarrelsome beside him. He knew more musty history than any one in the state and he could without flinching tell how Alexander waded over his knees in blood; but rather than take off his coat where the world would have seen him he would have died. He was just that modest and conventional. He had to come to his classes through the back of the campus up the hill; and they do say that one day, when half a dozen of the Kappa Kap Pajama girls were sitting on the low stone wall at the foot of the hill swinging their feet, he cruised about the horizon for a quarter of an hour waiting for them to go away in order that he might go up the hill without scorching his collar with blushes. That was the kind of a roaring lion Professor Sillcocks was.
Well, to get back from behind Robin Hood's barn, Professor Sillcocks had a great hobby. He believed that college boys should indulge in athletics, but that they should do it with their fingers crossed. Those weren't his exact words, but that was what he meant. It was noble to play games, but wicked to want to win. In his eyes a true sport was a man who would start in a foot race and come in half a mile behind carrying the other fellow's coat. Our peculiar style of pushing a football right through the thorax of the whole Middle West nearly made him shudder his shoes off and every fall in chapel he delivered a talk against the reprehensible state of mind that finds pleasure in the defeat of others. We always cheered those talks, which pleased him; but he never could understand why we didn't go out afterward and offer ourselves up to some high-school team as victims. It pained him greatly.
Naturally Professor Sillcocks participated with great enthusiasm in the work of pruning our line-up, and after the Faculty had thrown up its hands he climbed right in and led a new campaign. We had to admire the scientific way in which he went about it, too. For a man whose most violent exercise consisted of lugging books off a top shelf, and who had learned all he knew about football from the Literary Pepsin or the Bi-Weekly Review, he got onto the game in wonderful style. Somehow he managed to learn just who were our star players—what they played and how badly they were needed—and then he went to work to quarantine these players.
First thing we knew the Millersburg game, which was always a fierce affair, arrived; and on the morning of the game Bumpus and Van Eiswaggon, our two star halfbacks, got notices to forget there was such a game as football until they had taken Freshman Greek over again—they being Seniors and remembering about as much Greek as their hats would hold on a windy day. I'll tell you that mighty near floored us; but virtue will pretty nearly always triumph, and when you mix a little luck into it, it is as slippery to corner as a corporation lawyer. We had the luck. There were two big boners, Pacey and Driggs, in college who wore whiskers. There always are one or two landscape artists in college who use their faces as alfalfa farms. We took Bumpus and Van Eiswaggon and the leading man of a company that was playing at the opera house that night over to these two Napoleons of mattress stuffing and they kindly consented to be imitated for one day only. Old Booth and Barrett had a tremendous layout of whiskers in his valise and before he got through he had produced a couple of mighty close copies of Pacey and Driggs. That afternoon the two real whisker kings went out in football suits and ran signals with the team until their wind was gone. Then they went back into the gym and their improved editions came out. Most of the college cried when they found that the two eminent authorities on tonsorial art were going to try to interfere with Millersburg's ambition, but those of us who were on to the deal simply prayed. We prayed that the whiskers wouldn't come off. They didn't, either. It was a grand game. We won, 20 to 0; and the school went wild over Pacey and Driggs. Even Prexy came out of it for a little while and went into the gym to shake hands with them. It took lively work to detain him until we could get them stripped and laid out on the rubbing boards. They were the heroes of the school for the rest of the year and, being honest chaps, they naturally objected. But we persuaded them that they had saved the college with their whiskers; and before they graduated we begged a bunch from each of them to frame and hang up in the gym some day when the incident wasn't quite so fresh.
Naturally, by this time, we believed that the Faculty ought to consider itself lucky to be allowed to hang around the college. Professor Sillcocks looked rather depressed for a day or two, but he soon cheered up and seemed to forget the team's existence. We swam right along, beating Pottawattamie, scoring sixty points on Ogallala and getting into magnificent condition for the Kiowa game on Thanksgiving. That was the game of the year for us. Time was when Kiowa used to beat us and look bored about it, but that was all in the misty past. For two years we had tramped all the lime off her goal lines; and maybe we weren't crazy to do it again! As early as October we used to sit up nights talking over our chances, and as November wore along the suspense got as painful as a good lively case of too much pie. We watched the team practise all day and dreamed of it all night. And then the blow fell.
It wasn't exactly a blow. It was more like a dynamite explosion. School let out the day before Thanksgiving, and when announcement time came in chapel Professor Sillcocks got up and begged permission to make a few remarks. Then this little ninety-eight-pound thinking machine, who couldn't have wrestled a kitten successfully, paralyzed half a thousand husky young students and a whole team of gladiators with the following remarks:
"I have long held, young gentlemen, that the pursuit of athletic exercises for the mere lust of winning is one of the evils of college life. It does not strengthen the mind or build up one's manhood. It does not encourage that sporting spirit which leads a man to smile in defeat or to give up his chances of winning rather than take an undue advantage. It does not make for gentleness, mildness or generosity. I have, young gentlemen, endeavored to make you see this in the past year by all the poor means at my disposal. I have not succeeded. But this morning I propose to bring it to you in a new way. As chairman of the credentials committee which passes upon the eligibility of your football players I have decided that the entire team is ineligible. If you ask for reasons, I have them. They may not, perhaps, suit you, but they suit me. These players are ineligible because they play too well. With them you cannot hope to be defeated and I am determined that the Siwash football team shall be defeated to-morrow. Your college experience must be broadened. Your football team, I understand, has not been defeated in three years. This is monstrous. All of you, except the Seniors, are totally uneducated in the art of taking defeat. This education I propose to open to you to-morrow. I have made it more certain by suspending all of what you call your second team and your scrubs—I believe that is correct. And the Faculty joins me, young gentlemen, in assuring you that if the game with Kiowa College is abandoned—abrogated—called off, I believe you express it—football will cease permanently at Siwash. Young gentlemen, accept defeat to-morrow as an opportunity and try to appreciate its great benefits. That is all."
That last was pure sarcasm. Imagine an executioner carving off his victim's head and murmuring politely, "That is all," to the said victim when he had finished! There we were, wiped out, utterly extinguished—legislated into disgrace and defeat—and all by a smiling villain who said "That is all" when he had read the death sentence!
There wasn't a loophole in the decree. Sillcocks had carved the entire football talent of the school right out of it with that little list of his. We would have to play Kiowa with a bunch of rah-rah boys who had never done anything more violent than break a cane on a grandstand seat over a touchdown. The chaps who were butchered to make a Roman holiday didn't have anything at all on us. We were going to be tramped all over by our deadly rival in order to afford pleasure to a fuzzy-faced old fossil who had peculiar ideas and had us to try them out on.
I guess, if the students had had a vote on it that day, Professor Sillcocks would have been elected resident governor of Vesuvius. We seethed all day and all that night. The board of strategy met, of course, but it threw up its hands. It didn't have any first aid to the annihilated in its chest. Besides, Professor Sillcocks hadn't played the game. He had just grabbed the cards. It was about to pass resolutions hailing Sillcocks as the modern Nero, when Rearick began to come down with an idea. Nowadays people pay him five thousand dollars apiece for ideas, but he used to fork them out to us gratis—and they had twice the candle-power. As soon as we saw Rearick begin to perspire we just knocked off and sat around, and it wasn't two minutes before he was making a speech.
"Fellows," he said, "we're due for a cleaning to-morrow. It's official. The Faculty has ordered it. If I had a Faculty I'd put kerosene on it and call the health department; but that's neither here nor there. We've got to lose. We've got to let Kiowa roll us all over the field; and if we back out we've got to give up football. Now some of you want to resign from college and some of you want to burn the chapel, but these things will not do you any good. Kiowa will beat us just the same. Therefore I propose that if we have to be beaten we make it so emphatic that no one will ever forget it. Let's make it picturesque and instructive. Let's show the Faculty that we can obey orders. Let's play a game of football the way Sillcocks and his tools would like to see it. You let me pick the team now, and give me to-night and to-morrow morning to drill them, and I'll bet Kiowa will never burn any property celebrating."
Bost was there with his head down between his knees and he said he didn't care—Rearick or Sillcocks or his satanic majesty could pick the team. As for himself, he was going to leave college and go to herding hens somewhere over two thousand miles from the Faculty. So we left it to Rearick and went home to sleep and dream murderous dreams about meeting profs in lonesome places.
The first thing I saw next morning when I went out of the house was a handbill on a telegraph pole. It was printed in red ink. It implored every Siwash student to turn out to the game that afternoon. "New team—new rules—new results!" it read. "The celebrated Sillcocks system of football will be played by the Siwash team. Attendance at this game counts five chapel cuts after Thanksgiving. Admission free. Tea will be served. You are requested to be present."
Were we present? We were—every one of us that wasn't tied down to a bed. There was something promising in that announcement. Besides, the greenest of us were taken in by that chapel-cut business. Besides, it was free! College students are just like the rest of the world. They'd go to their great-grandmother's funeral if the admission was free. Our gang put on big crepe bows, just to be doing something, and marched into the stadium that afternoon with hats off. It was packed. Talk about promotion work. Rearick had pasted up bills until all Jonesville was red in the face. And the Faculty was there, too. Every member was present. They sat in a big special box and Sillcocks had the seat of honor. He looked as pleased as though he had just reformed a cannibal tribe. I suppose the programs did it. They announced once more that the celebrated Sillcocks system of football as worked out by the coach and Mr. Keg Rearick would be played in this game by the Siwash team. The whole town was there too, congested with curiosity. In one big bunch sat all the Siwash men who had ever played football, in their best clothes and with their best girls. They were the guests of honor at their own funeral.
The Kiowa team came trotting out—behemoths, all of them—ready to get revenge for three painful years. They had heard all about the massacre and regarded it as the joke of the century on Siwash. They also regarded it as their providential duty to emphasize the joke—to sharpen up the point by scoring about a hundred and ten points on the scared young greenhorns who would have to play for us. All our ex-players stood up and gave them a big cheer when they came. So did everybody else. It's always a matter of policy to grin and joke while you're being dissected. Nothing like cheerfulness. Cheerfulness saved many a martyr from worry while he was being eaten by a lion.
Then our gymnasium doors opened and the brand-new and totally innocent Siwash football team came forth. When we saw it we forgot all about Kiowa, the Faculty, defeat, dishonor, the black future and the disgusting present. We stood up and yelled ourselves hoarse. Then we sat down and prepared to enjoy ourselves something frabjous.
Rearick had used nothing less than genius in picking that team. First in line came Blakely, a mandolin and girl specialist, who had never done anything more daring than buck the line at a soda fountain. He had on football armor and a baseball mask. Then came Andrews. Andrews specialized in poetry for the Lit magazine and commonly went by the name of Birdie, because of an unfortunate sonnet that he had once written. Andrews wore evening dress, and carried a football in a shawl strap. Then came McMurty and Boggs, sofa-pillow punishers. They roomed together and you could have tied them both up in Ole Skjarsen's belt and had enough of it left for a handle. James, the champion featherweight fusser of the school, followed. He carried a campchair and a hot-water bottle. Petey Simmons, five feet four in his pajamas, and Jiggs Jarley, champion catch-as-catch-can-and-hold-on-tight waltzer in college, came next. Then came Bain, who weighed two hundred and seventeen pounds, had been a preacher, and was so mild that if you stood on his corns he would only ask you to get off when it was time to go to class. He was followed by Skeeter Wilson, the human dumpling, and Billings, who always carried an umbrella to classes and who had it with him then. Behind these came a great mob of camp-followers with chairs, books, rugs, flowers, lunch tables, tea-urns and guitars. It was the most sensational parade ever held at Siwash; and how we yelled and gibbered with delight when we got the full aroma of Rearick's plan!
The Kiowa men looked a little dazed, but they didn't have time to comment. The toss-up was rushed through and the two teams lined up, our team with the ball. It would have done your eyes good to see Rearick adjust it carefully on a small doily in the exact center of the field, mince up to it and kick it like an old lady urging a setting hen off the nest. A Kiowa halfback caught it and started up the field. Right at him came Birdie Andrews, hat in hand, and when the halfback arrived he bowed and asked him to stop. The runner declined. McMurty was right behind and he also begged the runner to stop. Boggs tried to buttonhole him. Skeeter Wilson, who was as fast as a trolley car, ran along with him for twenty-five yards, pleading with him to listen to reason and consent to be downed. It was no use. The halfback went over the goal line. The Kiowa delegation didn't know whether to go crazy with joy or disgust. Our end of the grandstand clapped its hands pleasantly. Down in the Faculty box one or two of the professors, who hadn't forgotten everything this side of the Fall of Rome, wiggled uneasily and got a little bit red behind the ears.
The teams changed goals and Rearick kicked off again. This time he washed the ball carefully and changed his necktie, which had become slightly soiled. The other Kiowa half caught the ball this time; he plowed into our boys so hard that McMurty couldn't get out of the way and was knocked over. Our whole team held up their hands in horror and rushed to his aid. They picked him up, washed his face, rearranged his clothes and powdered his nose. He cried a little and wanted them to telegraph his mother to come, but a big nurse with ribbons in her cap—it was Maxwell—came out and comforted him and gave him a stick of candy half as large as a barber-pole.
By this time you could tell the Faculty a mile off. It was a bright red glow. Every root-digger in the bunch had caught on except Sillcocks. He was intensely interested and extremely grieved because the Kiowa men did not enter into the spirit of the occasion. As for the rest of the crowd, it sounded like drowning men gasping for breath. Such shrieks of pure unadulterated joy hadn't been heard on the campus in years. When the teams lined up again Kiowa had got thoroughly wise. They had held a five-minute session together, had taken off their shin, nose and ear guards, had combed their hair and had put on their hats. The result was what you might call picturesque. You could hear ripping diaphragms all over the stadium when they tripped out on the field. The two teams lined up and Rearick kicked off again. This time he had tied a big loop of ribbon around the ball; when it landed a Kiowa man stuck his forefinger through the loop and began to sidle up toward our goal, holding an imaginary skirt. Our team rushed eagerly at him, Billings and his umbrella in the lead. On every side the Kiowa players bowed to them and shook hands with them. The critical moment arrived. Billings reached the runner and promptly raised his umbrella over him and marched placidly on toward our goal. Hysterics from the bleachers. The Kiowa man didn't propose to be outdone. He stopped, removed his derby and presented the ball to Billings. Billings put his hand on his heart and declined. The Kiowa man bowed still lower and insisted. Billings bumped the ground with his forehead and wouldn't think of it. The Kiowa man offered the ball a third time, and we found afterward that he threatened to punch Billings' head then and there if he didn't take it. Billings gave in and took the ball.
"Siwash's ball!" we yelled joyfully. The two teams lined up for a scrimmage. Right here a difficulty arose that threatened to end the game. The opposing players insisted on gossiping with their arms around each other's necks. They would not get down to business. The referee raved—he was an imported product, with no sense of humor, and was rapidly getting congestion of the brain. "Don't hit in the clinches!" yelled some joker. For five minutes the teams gossiped. Then our quarter gave his signal—the first two bars of "Oh Promise Me"—and passed the ball to Wilson, who was fullbacking.
It was twice as interesting as an ordinary game because nobody knew what Wilson would do; in fact, he didn't seem to know himself. He stood a minute dusting off the ball carefully and manicuring his soiled nails. The Kiowa team and our boys strolled up, arm in arm. Wilson still hesitated. The Kiowa captain offered to send one of his men to carry the ball. Wilson wouldn't think of causing so much trouble. Our captain suggested that the ball be taken to our goal. The Kiowa captain protested that it had been there twice already. Some one suggested that they flip for goals. The captains did it. Siwash won. Calling a messenger boy, our captain sent him over to Kiowa's goal with the ball, while the two teams sat down in the middle of the field and the Kiowa captain set 'em up to gum.
By this time people were being removed from the stadium in all directions. There was a sort of purple aurora over the Faculty box that suggested apoplexy. The learned exponents of revised football looked about as comfortable as a collection of expiring beetles mounted on large steel pins—that is, all but Professor Sillcocks. He was beaming with pleasure. I never saw a man so entirely wrapped up in manly sports as he was just then. Evidently the new football suited him right down to the ground. He clapped his hands at every new atrocity; and whenever some Siwash man put his arm around a Kiowan and helped him tenderly on with the ball, he turned around to the populace behind him and nodded his head as if to say: "There, I told you so. It can be done. See?"
When the Kiowa center kicked off for the next scrimmage he introduced a novelty. He produced a large beanbag, which I presume Rearick had slipped him, kicked it about four feet and then hurriedly picked it up and presented it to one of our men. All of our boys thanked him profoundly and then lined up for the scrimmage. Immediately the Kiowa captain put his right hand behind him. Our captain guessed "thumbs up." He was right and we took the ball forward five yards. Deafening applause from the stadium. Then our captain guessed a number between one and three. Another five yards. Shrieks of joy from Siwash and desperate cries of "Hold 'em!" from the Kiowa gang. Then the Kiowa captain demanded that our captain name the English king who came after Edward VI. That was a stonewall defense, because Rearick had flunked two years running in English history. Kiowa took the ball, but the umpire butted in. It was an offside play, he declared, because it wasn't a king at all. It was a queen and it was Siwash's ball and ten yards. That made an awful row. The Kiowa captain declared that the whole incident was "very regrettable," but the umpire was firm. He gave us the ball; and on the very next down Rearick conjugated a French verb perfectly for a touchdown.
All of this was duly announced to the stadium and the excitement was intense. I guess there were as many as two hundred Chautauqua salutes after that touchdown. Both teams had tea together and our rooters' chorus sang "Juanita," while old Professor Grubb got up, with rage printed all over his face in display type, and went home. He never went near the stadium again as long as he lived, I understand.
It was a most successful occasion up to this point, but somehow college boys always overdo a thing. The strain was telling on the two teams; for, when you come right down to it, no Siwash man loves a Kiowa man any more fervently than a bull pup loves a cat. The teams lined up again and began playing "ring-around-a-rosy" to find who should make the next touchdown, when something happened. Klingel, the two-hundred-and-ten-pound Kiowan guard, started it. He was just about as good a fellow as a white rhinoceros, and an hour of entire civilization was about all he could possibly stand. He had the beanbag and he was tired of it. Beanbags meant nothing to him. He couldn't grasp their solemn beauty. He offered it to Petey Simmons. Petey declined, with profuse thanks. Klingel insisted. Petey bowed very low and swore that rather than make another touchdown on Kiowa he would suffer wild horses to tear him into little bits. Then Klingel began to get offside.
"You hear what I say, you little shrimp!" he said politely. "If you don't take this thing and quit your yawping I'm going to make you do it."
"Listen, you overfed mountain of pork!" said Petey, with equal cordiality. "If you don't like that beanbag eat it. It would do you good. You don't know beans anyway."
Then Klingel, without further argument, hit Petey in the eye and laid him out.
Wow! Talk about irritating a hornet convention. Klingel was a great little irritator. The whole game had been torture for our real team, cooped up among the ruffles in the stadium; and when they saw little Petey go down they gave one simultaneous roar and vaulted over the railing. It was a close race, but Ole Skjarsen beat Hogboom out by a foot. He hit Klingel first. Hogboom hit him second, third, fifth and thirty-fourth. Then the two teams closed together and for five minutes a cyclone of dust, dirt, sweaters, collars, arms, legs, hair and bright red noses swept up and down the field. The grandstand went crazy. The five hundred Kiowa rooters grabbed their canes and started in. They met about seven hundred Siwash patriots and then the whole universe exploded.
The police interfered and about half an hour later the last Siwash student was pried off the last Kiowan. It was the most disgraceful riot in the history of the college. I don't think there was a whole suit of clothes on the field when it was over; and the Siwash man who didn't have two or three knobs on his head wasn't considered loyal. The girls all cried. The Faculty went home in cabs, the mayor declared martial law and the Kiowa gang walked out of town to the crossing and took the train there to avoid further hard feelings. We were all ashamed of ourselves and I think the two schools liked each other a little better after that. Anyway, we regarded the whole affair as only logical.
The Faculty held a meeting that lasted all the next day. Then it adjourned and did absolutely nothing at all except to pile upon us more theses, themes and special outrages that semester than any body of students had ever been inflicted with in a like period. The profs wouldn't speak to us. They regarded us as beneath notice. But when the real Kiowa game was scheduled by mutual consent, two weeks afterward, there wasn't a remark from headquarters. We played Kiowa and spread them all over the map—and not a Faculty member was in town that day.
I understand Professor Sillcocks is not yet thoroughly persuaded that his style of football wasn't a success. "But for that unfortunate riot, which comes from playing with less cultured colleges," he remarked to a Senior the next spring, "that would have been the most successful exhibition of mental control and inherent gentility ever seen at Siwash."
True, very true.
CUPID—THAT OLD COLLEGE CHUM
Well! Well! Well! Here's another magazine investigator who has made a great discovery. Listen to this, Sam: "Co-education, as found in American colleges, is amazingly productive of romance, and the great number of marriages resulting between the men and women in co-educational schools indicates all too plainly that love-making occupies an important part of the courses of study."
Those are his very words. Isn't he the Christopher Columbus, though! Who would have thought it? Who would have dreamt that there were any mutual admiration societies in co-educational colleges? I am amazed. What won't these investigators discover next? Why, one of them is just as likely as not to get wise to the fact that there is a hired-girl problem. You can't keep anything away from these gimlet-eyed scientists.
Oh, sure! I knew it was just about time for some kind of an off-key noise from you, you grouchy old leftover. Just because you graduated from one of those paradises in pants, where they import a carload of girls from all over the country to one dance a year and worry along the rest of the time with chorus girls and sweet young town girls who began bringing students up by hand about the time Wm. H. Taft was a Freshman, you think you are qualified to toss in a few hoots about co-education. Back away, Sam! That subject is loaded. I've had palpitations on a college campus myself; and I want to tell you right here that it beats having them at a stage door, or at a summer resort, or in a parlor just around the corner from nine relatives, or in one of those short-story conservatories, or in the United States mails, forty ways for Sunday; and, besides, it's educational. We co-educationalists get a four years' course in close-coupled conversation and girl classification while you fellows in the skirtless schools are getting the club habit and are saving up for the privilege of dancing with other fellows' fiancees at the proms once a year.
Honestly, I never could see just why a fellow should wait until he is through college before he begins to study the science of how to make some particular girl believe that if Adam came back he would look at him and say: "Gee, it swells me all up to think that chap is a descendant of mine!"
And I may be thick in my thought dome, but I never could see any objection to marrying a classmate, either, even though I didn't do it myself. I admit co-educational schools are strong on matrimony. Haven't I dug up for thirty-nine wedding presents for old Siwash students already? And don't I get a shiver that reaches from my collar-button down to my heels every time I get one of those thick, stiff, double-barreled envelopes, with "Kindly dig," or words to that effect, on the inside? Usually they come in pairs—the bid to the next wedding and the bill for the last present. Why, out of sixty-five ninety-umpters with whom I graduated, six couples are already holding class reunions every evening; and just the other day another of the boys, who thought he would look farther, came back after having made a pretty thorough inspection all over the civilized world, and camped outside of the home of a girl in our class until she admitted that he looked better to her than any of the rising young business men who had bisected her orbit in the last ten years. They're to be married this spring and I'm going back to the wedding. Incidentally I'm going to help pay for three more silver cups. We give a silver cup to each class baby and each frat baby, and I've been looking around this past year for a place where we can buy them by the dozen.
Weddings! Why, man, a co-educational college is a wedding factory. What of it? As far as I can see, Old Siwash produces as many governors, congressmen and captains of industry to the graduate as any of the single-track schools. And I notice one thing more. You don't find any of our college couples hanging around the divorce courts. There is a peculiar sort of stickiness about college marriages. They are for keeps. When a Siwash couple doesn't have anything else agreeable to talk about it can sit down and have a lovely three months' conversation on the good old times. It takes a mighty acrimonious quarrel to stand a college reunion around a breakfast table. Take it from me, you lonesome old space-waster, with nothing but a hatrack to give you an affectionate welcome when you come home at night, there is no better place on earth to find good wife material than a college campus. Of course I don't think a man should go to college to find a wife; but if his foot should slip, and he should marry a girl whose sofa pillows have the same reading matter on them as there is on his, there's nothing to yell for help about. Ten to one he's drawn a prize. Girls who go through co-educational colleges are extra fine, hand-picked, sun-ripened, carefully wrapped-up peaches—and I know what I'm talking about.
How do I know? Heavens, man! didn't I go through the Siwash peach orchard for four years? Don't I know the game from candy to carriages? Didn't I spend every spring in a light pink haze of perfect bliss? And wasn't all the Latin and Greek and trigonometry and athletic junk crowded out of my memory at the end of every college year by the face of the most utterly, superlatively marvelous girl in the world? And wasn't it a different face every spring? Oh, I took the entire course in girlology, Sam! I never skipped a single recitation. I got a Summa Cum Laudissimus in strolling, losing frat pins, talking futures and acquiring hand-made pennants. And the only bitter thought I've got is that I can't come back.
You'll never realize, my boy, how old Pa Time roller-skates by until you go back to a co-ed college ten years afterward. Here, in the busy mart of trade, I'm a promising young infant who has got to "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" to the big ones, and be good and get to work on time for thirty years before I will be trusted to run a monopoly alone on a quiet day; but back on the Siwash Campus, Sam, I'm a patriarch. That's one reason why I don't go back. I'm married and I don't care to be madly sought after, but also I don't care to make a hit as a fine old antique for a while yet, thank you. When I am forty, and have gummed up my digestion in the dollar-herding game until I wheeze for breath when I run up a column of figures, I'll go back and have a nice comfy time in the grandpa class. But not now. The only difference between a thirty-year-old alumnus and the mummy of Rameses, to a college girl, is in favor of the mummy. It doesn't come around and ask for dances.
I suppose, Sam, you think you've been all lit up under the upper left-hand vest pocket over one or two girls in your time, but I don't believe a fellow can fall in love so far over his ears anywhere in the world as he can in Siwash College. That's only natural, for the finest girls in the world go to Siwash—except one girl who went to another school by accident and whom I ran across about three years ago wearing an Alfalfa Delt pin. I'll take you up to the house to see her some time. She was too nice a girl to wear an Alfalfa Delt pin and I just naturally had to take it off and put on an Eta Bita Pie pin; and somehow in the proceedings we got married—and all I have to say about it is three cheers for the universe!
Anyway, as I was saying, it was as easy to fall in love at Siwash as it was to forget to go to chapel. We got along all right in the fall. We liked the girls enormously and were always smashing up some football team just to please them. And, of course, we kept ourselves all stove up financially during the winter hauling them to parties and things in Jonesville's nine varnished cabs. It took about as much money to support those cabs as it does to run a fleet of battleships. But it was in the spring that the real fireworks began. Suddenly, about the first Wednesday after the third Friday in April, the ordinary Siwash man discovers that some girl whom he has known all year isn't a girl at all, but a peachblow angel who is just stopping on earth to make a better man of him and show him what a dull, pifflish thing Paradise would be without her. Life becomes a series of awful blank spots, with walks on the campus between them. He can't get his calculus because he is busy figuring on a much more difficult problem; he is trying to figure whether three dances with some other fellow mean anything more to Her than charity. He gets cold chills every time he reflects that at any minute a member of some royal family may pass by and notice Her, and that he will have to promote international spasms by hashing him. He realizes that he has misspent his life; that football is a boy business; that frats are foolish, and that there ought to be a law giving every college graduate a job paying at least two thousand dollars a year on graduation. He is nervous, feverish, depressed, inspired, anxious, oblivious, glorified, annihilated, encouraged and all cluttered up with emotion. The planet was invented for the purpose of letting Her dig Her number three heels into it on spring afternoons. Sunshine is important because Her hair looks better with the light on it. Every time She frowns the weather bureau hangs out a tornado signal, and every time She smiles somebody puts a light-blue sash around the horizon and a double row of million-candle-power calcium lights clear down the future, as far as he can see.
That's what love does to a college boy in spring. It's a kind of rose-colored brainstorm, but it very seldom has complications. By the next fall, the ozone is out of the air; and after a couple has gone strolling about twice, football and the sorority rushes butt in—and it's all over. Freshman girls are a help, too. Beats all how much assistance a Freshman girl can be in forgetting a Senior girl who isn't on the premises! Even in the spring-fever period we didn't get engaged to any extent. The nearest I ever came to it was to ask the light of my life for ninety-several if she would wear my frat pin forever and ever until next fall. And, let me tell you, there wasn't any local of the Handholders' Union on the Siwash Campus. That's another place where you soubrette worriers have us figured out wrong. Rushing a Siwash girl was about as distant a proposition for us as trying to snuggle up to the planets in the telescopic astronomy course. For cool, pleasant and skillful unapproachability, a co-ed girl breaks all records. We just worshiped them as higher beings, and I find that a lot of Siwash boys who have married Siwash girls are still a little bit dazed about the whole affair. They can't figure how they ever had the nerve to start real businesslike negotiations.
This very high-class insulation in our love affairs caused us fellows a lot of woe once in a while. You never could tell whether or not a girl was engaged to some fellow back home. We didn't get impertinent enough to ask. I think there ought to be a law compelling a girl who comes to college engaged to some rising young merchant prince in the country store back home to wear an engagement ring around her neck, where it can be easily seen. More than once, a Siwash man who had been conservative enough to worship the same girl right through his college course and who had proposed to her on the last night of school, when the open season for thou-beside-me talk began, has found that all the time some chap has been writing her a letter a day and that she has only regarded the Siwash man as a kind friend, and so on. Never will I forget when Frankling got stung that way! Of course we didn't generally know when a tragedy of this sort happened, but in his case he brought it on himself. If he hadn't made a furry-eared songbird out of himself when Ole Skjarsen drew his girl at the Senior class party—
You want to know about this girl lottery business, you say? Well, it's plain that I shall have to begin right back at the beginning of the Siwash social system and educate you a little at a time. Now this class party drawing is an institution which has been handed down at Siwash ever since the ancients went to school before the war. You see, at Siwash, as at most colleges, there is the fraternity problem. The frat men give parties to the sorority girls as often as the Dean of Women will stand for it, and every one gets gorgeously acquainted and extremely sociable. The non-fratters go to the Y. M. C. A. reception at the beginning of each year and to the Commencement exercises, and that's about all. Of course they pick up lots of friends among the non-sorority girls; and I guess D. Cupid solders up about as many jobs among them as he does among the others. But there isn't much chance for these two tribes to mix. That was why the class lottery was invented. It has been a custom at Siwash, ever since there has been a Siwash, for each class to hold a party each year. Now class parties are held in order that pure and perfect democracy may be promoted, and it is necessary to take violent measures to shuffle up the people and get every one interested. So they draw for partners. The class which is about to effervesce socially holds a meeting. At this meeting the names of all the men are put in one hat and the names of all the girls in another. Then two judges of impregnable honesty draw out a name from each hat simultaneously and read them to the class.
When I was at Siwash a class party was the most exciting event in college. For uncertainty and breath-grabbing anxiety they made the football games seem as tame as a church election. Of course everybody can't be a Venus de Milo or an Apollo with a Beveled Ear, as Petey Simmons used to call him. Every class has its middle-aged young ladies, who are attending college to rest up from ten or fifteen years of school-teaching, and its tall young agriculturalists with restless Adam's apples, whose idea of being socially interesting is to sit all evening in the same chair making a noise like one of those $7.78-suit dummies. That's what made the class lotteries so interesting. The plow-chasers drew the prettiest girls in the class and the most accomplished fusser among the fellows usually drew a girl who would make the manager of a beauty parlor utter a sad shriek and throw up his job. Of course every one was bound in honor to take what came out of the hat. Nobody flinched and nobody renigged, but there was a lot of suppressed excitement and well-modulated regret.
I have been reasonably wicked since I left college. Once or twice I have slapped down a silver dollar or thereabout and have watched the little ball roll round and round a pocket that meant a wagon-load of tainted tin for me; and once in a while I have placed five dollars on a pony of uncertain ability and have watched him go from ninth to second before he blew up. But I never got half the heart-ripping suspense out of these pastimes that I did out of a certain few party drawings, when I waited for my name to come out and wondered, while I looked across the hall at the girl section, whether I was going to draw the one girl in the world, any one of four or five mighty interesting runners-up, or the fat little girl in the corner with ropy hair and the general look of a person who had had a bright idea a few years before and had been convalescing from it ever since.
Talk about excitement and consequences! Those drawings kept us on the jump until the parties were pulled off. Generally the proud beauties who had been drawn by the midnight-oil destroyers did not know them, and some one had to steer the said destroyers around to be introduced. What with dragging bashful young chaps out to call and then seeing that they didn't freeze up below the ankles and get sick on the night of the party; and what with teaching them the rudiments of waltzing and giving them pointers on lawn ties; or how to charter a good seaworthy hack in case the girl lived on an unpaved street; and bracing up the fellows who had drawn blanks, and going to call on the blanks we had drawn and getting gloriously snubbed—give me a wall-flower for thorns!—well, it was no cinch to run a class party. But they were grand affairs, just the same, and promoted true fellowship, besides furnishing amusement for the whole college in the off season. And, besides, I always remember them with gratitude for what they did to Frankling.
You know there are two kinds of fussers in college. There is the chap like Petey Simmons, for instance, whose heart was a directory of Siwash girls; and there is the fellow who grabs one girl and stakes out claim boards all around her for the whole four years. That was Frankling's style. He was what we always called a married man. He and Pauline Spencer were the closest corporation in college. They entered school in the same class, and he called on her every Friday night at Browning Hall and took her to every party and lecture and entertainment for the next three and a half years—except, of course, the class parties. It was one of our chief delights to watch Frankling grind his teeth when some lowbrow—as he called them—drew her name. She always had rotten luck—you never saw such luck! Once Ettleson drew her. He was a tall, silent farmer, who wore boots and a look of gloom; and he marched her through a mile of mud to the hall without saying a word, handed her to the reception committee and went over to a corner, where he sat all evening. But that wasn't so bad as the Junior she drew. His name was Slaughter. His father had a dairy at the edge of Jonesville and Slaughter decided that, as the night was cold and rainy, a carriage would be appropriate. So he scrubbed up the milk wagon thoroughly, put a lot of nice, clean straw on the floor, hung a lantern from the top for heat and drove her down to the party in state. She was game and didn't make a murmur, but Frankling made a pale-gray ass of himself. As I said, I never liked Frankling. He had a nasty, sneering way of looking at the whole school, except his own crowd. His father owned the locomotive works and he always went to Europe for his summers. He was one of those unnecessary individuals who are solemnly convinced that if you don't do things just as they do something is lacking in your mind; and, though he was perfectly bred, he was only about half as pleasant to have around as a well-behaved hyena.
I never could see what Miss Spencer saw in him, unless it was the locomotives. As far as we could tell—we never got much chance to judge—she was a real nice girl. She was a little haughty and never had much to say, and always acted as if she was a princess temporarily off the job. But she was a good scout, and proved it at the class parties by making it as pleasant as she could for the nervous nobodies who took her; while the yellow streak in Frankling was so broad there wasn't enough white in him to look like a collar. That's why the whole college went crazy with delight over the Ole Skjarsen affair.—Last station, ladies and gents. Story begins here.
When we were Seniors Ole Skjarsen was the chief embarrassment of the class. As a football player he was a wonder, but as a society fritterling he was one long catastrophe. He just couldn't possibly get hep—that was all. He was as companionable and as good-natured as a St. Bernard pup and just as inconvenient to have around. He dressed like a vaudeville sketch, and the number of things he could do in an hour, which are not generally done in low-vest and low-neck circles, was appalling. However we all loved Ole because of his grand and historic deeds on the team, and we took him to our parties and never so much as fell out of our chairs when he took off his coat in order to dance with more comfort and energy. The girls were as loyal as we were and danced with him as long as their feet held out, and we made them leather hero medals and really had a lot of fun out of the whole business—all except Frankling. It just about killed him to have to mingle with Ole socially; and when the time for the Senior class party drew near he got so nervous that he called a meeting of a few of us fellows and made a big kick.
"I tell you, fellows, this has got to stop!" he declared. "We've encouraged this lumber-jack until he has gotten too fresh for any use. Why, he'll ask any girl in the college to dance with him, and he goes and calls on them, too. Now, it's up to us to show him his place. I'm dead against putting his name in the hat for the party. He'll be sure to draw a girl who will be humiliated by having to go with him; and I have a little too much regard for chivalry and courtesy to allow him to do it. We'll just have to hint to him that he'd better have another engagement the night of the class party, that's all."
Thereupon we all rose joyously up and told Frankling to go jump in the creek. And he called us muckers and declared we were ignorant of the first principles of social ethics. He said that Skjarsen might be near enough our level to be inoffensive, but as for him he declined to have anything to do with the class party. Thereupon we gave three cheers, and that made him so mad that he left the meeting and fell over three chairs trying to do it with speed and dignity. Altogether it was a most enjoyable occasion. We'd never gotten quite so much satisfaction out of him before.
The drawing took place the next week and, sure enough, Frankling declined to allow his name to be put in the hat. We put Ole's name in and were prepared to have him draw a Class A girl; but what happened knocked the props out from under us. His name came fourth and he drew the mortgaged and unapproachable Miss Spencer.
We didn't know whether to celebrate or prepare for trouble. It seemed reasonable that Miss Spencer would back up Frankling and reduce Ole to an icicle when he asked her to go with him. But the next morning, when we saw Frankling, we were so happy that we forgot to worry. He was one large paroxysm. I never saw so much righteous indignation done up in one bundle. He cornered the class officers and declared in passionate tones that they had committed the outrage of the century. They had insulted one of the finest young women in the college. They had made it advisable for all persons of culture to remain away from Siwash. The disgrace must not be allowed. He didn't speak as a friend, but as a disinterested party who wanted justice done; and he proposed to secure it.
We took all this quite humbly and asked him why he didn't see Ole himself and order him to unhand the lady. From the way he turned pale, we guessed he had done that already. Ole weighed two-twenty in his summer haircut and was quick-tempered. We then asked him why he didn't buy Ole off. We also asked him why he didn't shut down the college, and why he didn't have Congress pass a law or something, and if his head had ever pained him before. He was tearing off his collar in order to answer more calmly and collectedly when Ole came into the room. Ole had combed his hair and shined his shoes, and he had on the pink-and-blue necktie that he had worn the month before to the annual promenade with a rented dress suit. He seemed very cheerful.
"Vell, fallers," says he, "das leetle Spencer gal ban all rite. She say she go by me to das party. Ve ban goin' stylish tu, Aye bet yu." Then he saw Frankling and went over to him with his hand out. "Don't yu care, Master Frankling," he said, with one of his transcontinental smiles. "Aye tak yust sum good care by her lak Aye ban her steddy faller." Phew!
* * * * *
Ole took Miss Spencer to the party. There isn't a bit of doubt but that he took her in style. He put more care and exertion into the job than any of the rest of us and he got more impressive results. Ole has his ideas about dress. Ordinarily he wore one of those canned suits that you buy in the coat-and-pants emporiums, giving your age and waist measure in order to get a perfect fit. He wore a celluloid collar with it and a necktie that must have been an heirloom in the family; and he wore a straw hat most of the year. He wore each one till it blew away and then got another. This rig was good enough for Ole in ordinary little social affairs, but when it came to dances and receptions he blossomed out in evening clothes. He had made a bargain with a second-hand clothes-man downtown—split his wood all winter for the use of a dress suit that had lost its position in a prominent family and was going downhill fast. You know how the tailors work the dress suit racket. They can't exactly change the style of a suit—it's got to be open-faced and have tails—but they work in some little improvement like a braid on or off, or an extra buttonhole, or a flare in the vest each year; so that a really bang-up-to-date chap would blush all over if he had to wear a last year's model. I notice the automobile makers are doing the same stunt. They can't improve their cars any more, so they put four doors on one year, cut 'em in two the next and take them off the year after.
This hasn't anything to do with Ole except that that dress suit of his was behind the times one hundred and two counts. It had been a fat man's suit in the first place. It fitted him magnificently at the shoulders. He and the suit began to leave each other from that point down. At the waist it looked like a deflated balloon. The top of the trousers fitted him about as snugly as a round manhole in the street. The legs flapped like the mainsail of a catboat that's coming about. They ended some time before his own legs did and there was quite a little stretch of yarn sock visible before the big tan shoes began. Ole had two acres of feet and he polished his shoes himself, with great care. They were not so large as an ordinary ballroom, but somehow he used them so skillfully that they gave the effect of covering the entire space. Four times around Ole's feet constituted a pretty fair encore at our dances; and I've seen him pen up as many as three couples in a corner with them when he got those feet tangled.
That was Ole's formal costume. But he didn't regard it with awe. Any one could wear a dress suit. It seemed to him that a Senior party to which he was to escort Miss Spencer was too important to pass airily off with the same old suit. He had another card up his sleeve.
"Aye ent tal yu," he explained when we asked him anxiously what it was he proposed to wear. "Yust vait. Aye ban de hull show, Aye tank. Yu fallers yust put on your yumpin'-yack suits. Aye mak yu look lak torta cent."
Of course we waited. We didn't have anything else to do. We worried a little, but we had gotten used to Ole, anyway—and what was the difference? It would be a little hard on Miss Spencer, but it would be magnificently horrible to Frankling, who considered that a collar of the wrong cut might endanger a man's whole future career. So we resigned ourselves and attended to our own troubles.
The night of the party was a cold, clear January evening. There was snow on the ground and it was packed hard on the sidewalks. This was nuts for the oil-burners. They walked their girls to the hall. Four of the reckless ones clubbed together and hired a big closed carriage affair from the livery stable. It happened to be a pallbearers' carriage during the daytime, but they didn't know the difference and the girls didn't tell them; and what you don't know will never cause your poor old brain to ache. We frat fellows blew our hard-worked allowances for varnished cabs and thereby proved ourselves the biggest suckers in the bunch. To this day I can't see why a girl who can dance all night, and can stroll all afternoon of a winter's day, has to be hauled three blocks in a two-horse rig every time she goes to a party. The money we spent on cabs while I was at Siwash would have built a new stadium, painted every frat house in town and endowed a chair of United States languages. But, there!—I'm on my pet hobby again. How it did hurt to pay for those hacks!
I got there late with my girl—she was a shy little conservatory student, who evidently regarded conversation as against the rules—and I found the usual complications that had to be sorted out at the beginning of every class party. Stiffy Short was sore. He was short five dances for his girl—had been working on her program for a week—and he accused the fellows of dodging because she couldn't dance; and was threatening to be taken sick and spend the evening in the dressing room smoking cigarettes. Miss Worthington, one of our Class A girls, didn't have a dance, because Tullings, who had drawn her, had presumed that she was to sit and talk with him all evening. Petey Simmons was in even worse. His girl couldn't dance, but insisted on doing so. She had done it the year before, too. Petey had been training up for two weeks by tugging his dresser around the room. Then there was Glenallen. We always had to form a committee of national defense against Glenallen. He couldn't dance, either, and he would insist on hitching his chair out towards the middle of the room. I've seen him throw as many as four couples in a night. And there was a telephone call from Miss Morse, class secretary and first-magnitude star. Her escort hadn't shown up. He never did show up. When we went around to lynch him the next day he explained desperately that at the last minute he found he had forgotten to get a lawn necktie. You know how a little thing like a lawn necktie that ain't can wreck an evening dress, unless you are an old enough head to cut up a handkerchief and fold the ends under.
We had gotten things pretty well straightened out before we discovered that Ole was missing. That would never do. If Miss Spencer needed rescuing we were the boys to do it. Three of us rushed down the stairs to send a carriage over to Browning Hall, and that minute Ole arrived at the party.
He had worn his very best—the suit he was proudest of and the one he knew couldn't be duplicated. It was his lumber-camp rig—corduroy trousers, big boots and overshoes, red flannel shirt, canvas pea-jacket and fur cap. He came marching up the walk like the hero in a moving-picture show and we thought he was alone till he reached the door. Then we saw Miss Spencer. She was seated in state behind him on one of those hand-sledges the farmers use for hauling cordwood. There were evergreen boughs behind her and all around her, and she was so wrapped up in a huge camp blanket that all we could see of her was her eyes.
We gave Ole three cheers and carried Miss Spencer upstairs on the evergreen boughs. The two were the hits of the party. We never had a better one. The incident broke more ice than we could have chopped out in a month with all the dull-edged talk we had been handing around. Every one had a good laugh by way of a general introduction and then we all turned in and made things hum. The wall-flowers got plucked. Somebody taught the president of the Y. M. C. A. how to waltz and poor Henry Boggs forgot for two hours that he had hands and feet, and that they were beyond his control. It was a tremendous success; we were so enthusiastic by the time things broke up that we told the cabmen to go hang and all walked home to the Hall, the men fighting for a chance to pull on the sledge-rope with Ole.
Hold on, Sam. Put down your hat. This isn't the end, thank you. It's just the prologue. Of course we all expected, when Ole unloaded Miss Spencer at the Hall and she bade him good evening, and thanked him for her delightful time and so on, that the incident would be closed. Never dreamed of anything else. Lumber-jack suits and cordwood sledges are fine for novelties, but they can't come back, you know—once is enough. And that's why we fell dead in rows when Ole, straw hat and all, walked over to Lab. from chapel with Miss Spencer the next day—and she didn't call for the police. We couldn't have stared any harder if the college chapel had bowed and walked off with her. And we hadn't recovered from the blow when Friday night rolled around and those of us who went to call at the Hall found Ole seated in Frankling's particular corner, entertaining Miss Spencer with an average of one remark a minute, which, so far as we could hear, consisted generally of "Aye tank so" and "No, ma'am."
By this time we had decided that Frankling was sulking and that Miss Spencer was showing him that if she wanted to be friendly with Ole, or the town pump, or the plaster statue of Victory in the college library, she had a perfect right to. I guess she showed him all right, too, for after a couple of weeks he surrendered and then the queerest rivalry Siwash had ever seen began. Frankling, son of the locomotive works, authority on speckled vests and cotillons, was scrapping with Ole Skjarsen, the cuffless wonder from the lumber camps, for the affections of the prettiest girl in college. No wonder we got so interested that spring that most of us forgot to fall in love ourselves.
I don't to this day believe that Miss Spencer meant a word of it. I think that she was simply good-natured, in the first place, and that, when Frankling began to bite little semicircular pieces out of the air, she began mixing her drinks, so to speak, just for the excitement of the thing. Anyway, Frankling walked over to chapel with her and Ole lumbered back. Frankling took her to the basket-ball games and Ole took her to the Kiowa debate and slept peacefully through most of it. Frankling bought a beautiful little trotting horse and sleigh and took Miss Spencer on long rides. In Siwash, young people do not have chaperons, guards, nurses nor conservators. That was a knockout, we all thought; but it never feazed Ole. He invited Miss Spencer to go street-car riding with him and she did it. Some of us found them bumping over the line in one of the flat-wheeled catastrophes that the Jonesville Company called cars—and Miss Spencer didn't even blush. She bowed to us just as unconcernedly as if she wasn't breaking all long-distance records for eccentricity in Siwash history.