GOOD OLD SIWASH
BY GEORGE FITCH
BOSTON LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 1916
Copyright, 1910, 1911, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY.
Copyright, 1911, BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.
All rights reserved
Printers S. J. PARKHILL & CO., BOSTON, U.S.A.
AT GOOD OLD SIWASH
Little did I think, during the countless occasions on which I have skipped blithely over the preface of a book in order to plunge into the plot, that I should be called upon to write a preface myself some day. And little have I realized until just now the extreme importance to the author of having his preface read.
I want this preface to be read, though I have an uneasy premonition that it is going to be skipped as joyously as ever I skipped a preface myself. I want the reader to toil through my preface in order to save him the task of trying to follow a plot through this book. For if he attempts to do this he will most certainly dislocate something about himself very seriously. I have found it impossible, in writing of college days which are just one deep-laid scheme after another, to confine myself to one plot. How could I describe in one plot the life of the student who carries out an average of three plots a day? It is unreasonable. So I have done the next best thing. There is a plot in every chapter. This requires the use of upwards of a dozen villains, an almost equal number of heroes, and a whole bouquet of heroines. But I do not begrudge this extravagance. It is necessary, and that settles it.
Then, again, I want to answer in this preface a number of questions by readers who kindly consented to become interested in the stories when they appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. Siwash isn't Michigan in disguise. It isn't Kansas. It isn't Knox. It isn't Minnesota. It isn't Tuskegee, Texas, or Tufts. It is just Siwash College. I built it myself with a typewriter out of memories, legends, and contributed tales from a score of colleges. I have tried to locate it myself a dozen times, but I can't. I have tried to place my thumb on it firmly and say, "There, darn you, stay put." But no halfback was ever so elusive as this infernal college. Just as I have it definitely located on the Knox College campus, which I myself once infested, I look up to find it on the Kansas prairies. I surround it with infinite caution and attempt to nail it down there. Instead, I find it in Minnesota with a strong Norwegian accent running through the course of study. Worse than that, I often find it in two or three places at once. It is harder to corner than a flea. I never saw such a peripatetic school.
That is only the least of my troubles, too. The college itself is never twice the same. Sometimes I am amazed at its size and perfection, by the grandeur of its gymnasium and the colossal lines of its stadium. But at other times I cannot find the stadium at all, and the gymnasium has shrunk until it looks amazingly like the old wooden barn in which we once built up Sandow biceps at Knox. I never saw such a college to get lost in, either. I know as well as anything that to get to the Eta Bita Pie house, you go north from the old bricks, past the new science hall and past Browning Hall. But often when I start north from the campus, I find my way blocked by the stadium, and when I try to dodge it, I run into the Alfalfa Delt House, and the Eatemalive boarding club, and other places which belong properly to the south. And when I go south I frequently lose sight of the college altogether, and can't for the life of me remember what the library tower looks like or whether the theological school is just falling down, or is to be built next year; or whether I ought to turn to my right, and ask for directions at Prexie's house, or turn to my left and crawl under a freight train which blocks a crossing on the Hither, Yonder and Elsewhere Railroad. If you think it is an easy task to carry a whole college in your head without getting it jumbled, just try it a while.
Then, again, the Siwash people puzzle me. Professor Grubb is always a trial. That man alternates a smooth-shaven face with a full beard in the most startling manner. Petey Simmons is short and flaxen-haired, long and black-haired, and wide and hatchet-faced in turns, depending on the illustrator. I never know Ole Skjarsen when I see him for the same reason. As for Prince Hogboom, Allie Bangs, Keg Rearick and the rest of them, nobody knows how they look but the artists who illustrated the stories; and as I read each number and viewed the smiling faces of these students, I murmured, "Goodness, how you have changed!"
So I have struggled along as best I could to administer the affairs of a college which is located nowhere, has no student body, has no endowment, never looks the same twice, and cannot be reached by any reliable route. The situation is impossible. I must locate it somewhere. If you are interested in the college when you have read these few stories, suppose you hunt for it wherever college boys are full of applied deviltry and college girls are distractingly fair; where it is necessary to win football games in order to be half-way contented with the universe; where the spring weather is too wonderful to be wasted on College Algebra or History of Art; and where, whatever you do, or whoever you like, or however you live, you can't forget it, no matter how long you work or worry afterward.
There! I can't mark it on the map, but if you have ever worried a college faculty you'll know the way.
GEORGE FITCH. July, 1911.
I OLE SKJARSEN'S FIRST TOUCHDOWN 1
II INITIATING OLE 28
III WHEN GREEK MEETS GROUCH 50
IV A FUNERAL THAT FLASHED IN THE PAN 78
V COLLEGES WHILE YOU WAIT 105
VI THE GREEK DOUBLE CROSS 135
VII TAKING PACE FROM FATHER TIME 169
VIII FRAPPED FOOTBALL 196
IX CUPID—THAT OLD COLLEGE CHUM 223
X VOTES FROM WOMEN 253
XI SIC TRANSIT GLORIA ALL-AMERICA 284
Twenty-five yards with four Muggledorfer men hanging on his legs Frontispiece
"Aye ent care to stop," he said. "Aye kent suit you, Master Bost" 20
He pulled himself together and touched Ole gently 26
There wasn't a college anywhere around us that didn't have Ole's hoofmarks all over its pride 33
Martha caused some mild sensation 63
My, but that girl was a wonder! 74
"Har's das spy!" he yelled. "Kill him, fallers; he ban a spy!" 120
We spent another five minutes hoisting him aboard a prehistoric plug 125
He may have been fat, but how he could run! 132
Naturally I was somewhat dazzled 147
He was so bashful that his voice blushed when he used it 151
With our colors on and four particularly wicked-looking chair legs in our hands 167
Our peculiar style of pushing a football right through the thorax of the whole middle west 205
"If you don't like that beanbag, eat it" 220
He invited Miss Spencer to go street-car riding with him 246
You can always spot these family friends 252
It was a blow between the eyes 264
"How are all the other good old chaps?" she said 270
Why, they even made us cut chapel to go walking with them 280
AT GOOD OLD SIWASH
OLE SKJARSEN'S FIRST TOUCHDOWN
Am I going to the game Saturday? Am I? Me? Am I going to eat some more food this year? Am I going to draw my pay this month? Am I going to do any more breathing after I get this lungful used up? All foolish questions, pal. Very silly conversation. Pshaw!
Am I going to the game, you ask me? Is the sun going to get up to-morrow? You couldn't keep me away from that game if you put a protective tariff of seventy-eight per cent ad valorem, whatever that means, on the front gate. I came out to this town on business, and I'll have to take an extra fare train home to make up the time; but what of that? I'm going to the game, and when the Siwash team comes out I'm going to get up and give as near a correct imitation of a Roman mob and a Polish riot as my throat will stand; and if we put a crimp in the large-footed, humpy-shouldered behemoths we're going up against this afternoon, I'm going out to-night and burn the City Hall. Any Siwash man who is a gentleman would do it. I'll probably have to run like thunder to beat some of them to it.
You know how it is, old man. Or maybe you don't, because you made all your end runs on the Glee Club. But I played football all through my college course and the microbe is still there. In the fall I think football, talk football, dream football, even though I haven't had a suit on for six years. And when I go out to the field and see little old Siwash lining up against a bunch of overgrown hippos from a university with a catalogue as thick as a city directory, the old mud-and-perspiration smell gets in my nostrils, and the desire to get under the bunch and feel the feet jabbing into my ribs boils up so strong that I have to hold on to myself with both hands. If you've never sat on a hard board and wanted to be between two halfbacks with your hands on their shoulders, and the quarter ready to sock a ball into your solar plexus, and eleven men daring you to dodge 'em, and nine thousand friends and enemies raising Cain and keeping him well propped up in the grandstands—if you haven't had that want you wouldn't know a healthy, able-bodied want if you ran into it on the street.
Of course, I never got any further along than a scrub. But what's the odds? A broken bone feels just as grand to a scrub as to a star. I sometimes think a scrub gets more real football knowledge than a varsity man, because he doesn't have to addle his brain by worrying about holding his job and keeping his wind, and by dreaming that he has fumbled a punt and presented ninety-five yards to the hereditary enemies of his college. I played scrub football five years, four of 'em under Bost, the greatest coach who ever put wings on the heels of a two-hundred-pound hunk of meat; and while my ribs never lasted long enough to put me on the team, what I didn't learn about the game you could put in the other fellow's eye.
Say, but it's great, learning football under a good coach. It's the finest training a man can get anywhere on this old globule. Football is only the smallest thing you learn. You learn how to be patient when what you want to do is to chew somebody up and spit him into the gutter. You learn to control your temper when it is on the high speed, with the throttle jerked wide open and buzzing like a hornet convention. You learn, by having it told you, just how small and foolish and insignificant you are, and how well this earth could stagger along without you if some one were to take a fly-killer and mash you with it. And you learn all this at the time of life when your head is swelling up until you mistake it for a planet, and regard whatever you say as a volcanic disturbance.
I suppose you think, like the rest of the chaps who never came out to practice but observed the game from the dollar-and-a-half seats, that being coached in football is like being instructed in German or calculus. You are told what to do and how to do it, and then you recite. Far from it, my boy! They don't bother telling you what to do and how to do it on a big football field. Mostly they tell you what to do and how you do it. And they do it artistically, too. They use plenty of language. A football coach is picked out for his ready tongue. He must be a conversationalist. He must be able to talk to a greenhorn, with fine shoulders and a needle-shaped head, until that greenhorn would pick up the ball and take it through a Sioux war dance to get away from the conversation. You can't reason with football men. They're not logical, most of them. They are selected for their heels and shoulders and their leg muscles, and not for their ability to look at you with luminous eyes and say: "Yes, Professor, I think I understand." The way to make 'em understand is to talk about them. Any man can understand you while you are telling him that if he were just a little bit slower he would have to be tied to the earth to keep up with it. That hurts his pride. And when you hurt his pride he takes it out on whatever is in front of him—which is the other team. Never get in front of a football player when you are coaching him.
But this brings me to the subject of Bost again. Bost is still coaching Siwash. This makes his 'steenth year. I guess he can stay there forever. He's coached all these years and has never used the same adjective to the same man twice. There's a record for you! He's a little man, Bost is. He played end on some Western team when he only weighed one hundred and forty. Got his football knowledge there. But where he got his vocabulary is still a mystery. He has a way of convincing a man that a dill pickle would make a better guard than he is, and of making that man so jealous of the pickle that he will perform perfectly unreasonable feats for a week to beat it out for the place. He has a way of saying "Hurry up," with a few descriptive adjectives tacked on, that makes a man rub himself in the stung place for an hour; and oh, how mad he can make you while he is telling you pleasantly that while the little fellow playing against you is only a prep and has sloping shoulders and weighs one hundred and eleven stripped, he is making you look like a bale of hay that has been dumped by mistake on an athletic field. And when he gets a team in the gymnasium between halves, with the game going wrong, and stands up before them and sizes up their insect nerve and rubber backbone and hereditary awkwardness and incredible talent in doing the wrong thing, to say nothing of describing each individual blunder in that queer nasal clack of his—well, I'd rather be tied up in a great big frying-pan over a good hot stove for the same length of time, any day in the week. The reason Bost is a great coach is because his men don't dare play poorly. When they do he talks to them. If he would only hit them, or skin them by inches, or shoot at them, they wouldn't mind it so much; but when you get on the field with him and realize that if you miss a tackle he is going to get you out before the whole gang and tell you what a great mistake the Creator made when He put joints in your arms instead of letting them stick out stiff as they do any other signpost, you're not going to miss that tackle, that's all.
When Bost came to Siwash he succeeded a line of coaches who had been telling the fellows to get down low and hit the line hard, and had been showing them how to do it very patiently. Nice fellows, those coaches. Perfect gentlemen. Make you proud to associate with them. They could take a herd of green farmer boys, with wrists like mules' ankles, and by Thanksgiving they would have them familiar with all the rudiments of the game. By that time the season would be over and all the schools in the vicinity would have beaten us by big scores. The next year the last year's crop of big farmer boys would stay at home to husk corn, and the coach would begin all over on a new crop. The result was, we were a dub school at football. Any school that could scare up a good rangy halfback and a line that could hold sheep could get up an adding festival at our expense any time. We lived in a perpetual state of fear. Some day we felt that the normal school would come down and beat us. That would be the limit of disgrace. After that there would be nothing left to do but disband the college and take to drink to forget the past.
But Bost changed all that in one year. He didn't care to show any one how to play football. He was just interested in making the player afraid not to play it. When you went down the field on a punt you knew that if you missed your man he would tell you when you came back that two stone hitching-posts out of three could get past you in a six-foot alley. If you missed a punt you could expect to be told that you might catch a haystack by running with your arms wide open, but that was no way to catch a football. Maybe things like that don't sound jabby when two dozen men hear them! They kept us catching punts between classes, and tackling each other all the way to our rooms and back. We simply had to play football to keep from being bawled out. It's an awful thing to have a coach with a tongue like a cheese knife swinging away at you, and to know that if you get mad and quit, no one but the dear old Coll. will suffer—but it gets the results. They use the same system in the East, but there they only swear at a man, I believe. Siwash is a mighty proper college and you can't swear on its campus, whatever else you do. Swearing is only a lazy man's substitute for thinking, anyway; and Bost wasn't lazy. He preferred the descriptive; he sat up nights thinking it out.
We began to see the results before Bost had been tracing our pedigrees for two weeks. First game of the season was with that little old dinky Normal School which had been scaring us so for the past five years. We had been satisfied to push some awkward halfback over the line once, and then hold on to the enemy so tight he couldn't run; and we started out that year in the same old way. First half ended 0 to 0, with our boys pretty satisfied because they had kept the ball in Normal's territory. Bost led the team and the substitutes into the overgrown barn we used for a gymnasium, and while we were still patting ourselves approvingly in our minds he cut loose:
"You pasty-faced, overfed, white-livered beanbag experts, what do you mean by running a beauty show instead of a football game?" he yelled. "Do you suppose I came out here to be art director of a statuary exhibit? Does any one of you imagine for a holy minute that he knows the difference between a football game and ushering in a church? Don't fool yourselves. You don't; you don't know anything. All you ever knew about football I could carve on granite and put in my eye and never feel it. Nothing to nothing against a crowd of farmer boys who haven't known a football from a duck's egg for more than a week! Bah! If I ever turned the Old Folks' Home loose on you doll babies they'd run up a century while you were hunting for your handkerchiefs. Jackson, what do you suppose a halfback is for? I don't want cloak models. I want a man who can stick his head down and run. Don't be afraid of that bean of yours; it hasn't got anything worth saving in it. When you get the ball you're supposed to run with it and not sit around trying to hatch it. You, Saunders! You held that other guard just like a sweet-pea vine. Where did you ever learn that sweet, lovely way of falling down on your nose when a real man sneezes at you? Did you ever hear of sand? Eat it! Eat it! Fill yourself up with it. I want you to get in that line this half and stop something or I'll make you play left end in a fancy-work club. Johnson, the only way to get you around the field is to put you on wheels and haul you. Next time you grow fast to the ground I'm going to violate some forestry regulations and take an axe to you. Same to you, Briggs. You'd make the All-American boundary posts, but that's all. Vance, I picked you for a quarterback, but I made a mistake; you ought to be sorting eggs. That ball isn't red hot. You don't have to let go of it as soon as you get it. Don't be afraid, nobody will step on you. This isn't a rude game. It's only a game of post-office. You needn't act so nervous about it. Maybe some of the big girls will kiss you, but it won't hurt."
Bost stopped for breath and eyed us. We were a sick-looking crowd. You could almost see the remarks sticking into us and quivering. We had come in feeling pretty virtuous, and what we were getting was a hideous surprise.
"Now I want to tell this tea-party something," continued Bost. "Either you're going out on that field and score thirty points this last half or I'm going to let the girls of Siwash play your football for you. I'm tired of coaching men that aren't good at anything but falling down scientifically when they're tackled. There isn't a broken nose among you. Every one of you will run back five yards to pick out a soft spot to fall on. It's got to stop. You're going to hold on to that ball this half and take it places. If some little fellow from Normal crosses his fingers and says 'naughty, naughty,' don't fall on the ball and yell 'down' until they can hear it uptown. Thirty points is what I want out of you this half, and if you don't get 'em—well, you just dare to come back here without them, that's all. Now get out on that field and jostle somebody. Git!"
Did we git? Well, rather. We were so mad our clothes smoked. We would have quit the game right there and resigned from the team, but we didn't dare to. Bost would have talked to us some more. And we didn't dare not to make those thirty points, either. It was an awful tough job, but we did it with a couple over. We raged like wild beasts. We scared those gentle Normalites out of their boots. I can't imagine how we ever got it into our heads that they could play football, anyway. When it was all over we went back to the gymnasium feeling righteously triumphant, and had another hour with Bost in which he took us all apart without anaesthetics, and showed us how Nature would have done a better job if she had used a better grade of lumber in our composition.
That day made the Siwash team. The school went wild over the score. Bost rounded up two or three more good players, and every afternoon he lashed us around the field with that wire-edged tongue of his. On Saturdays we played, and oh, how we worked! In the first half we were afraid of what Bost would say to us when we came off the field. In the second half we were mad at what he had said. And how he did drive us down the field in practice! I can remember whole cross sections of his talk yet:
"Faster, faster, you scows. Line up. Quick! Johnson, are you waiting for a stone-mason to set you? Snap the ball. Tear into them. Low! Low! Hi-i! You end, do you think you're the quarter pole in a horse race? Nine men went past you that time. If you can't touch 'em drop 'em a souvenir card. Line up. Faster, faster! Oh, thunder, hurry up! If you ran a funeral, center, the corpse would spoil on your hands. Wow! Fumble! Drop on that ball. Drop on it! Hogboom, you'd fumble a loving-cup. Use your hand instead of your jaw to catch that ball. It isn't good to eat. That's four chances you've had. I could lose two games a day if I had you all the time. Now try that signal again—low, you linemen; there's no girls watching you. Snap it; snap it. Great Scott! Say, Hogboom, come here. When you get that ball, don't think we gave it to you to nurse. You're supposed to start the same day with the line. We give you that ball to take forward. Have you got to get a legal permit to start those legs of yours? You'd make a good vault to store footballs in, but you're too stationary for a fullback. Now I'll give you one more chance—"
And maybe Hogboom wouldn't go some with that chance!
In a month we had a team that wouldn't have used past Siwash teams to hold its sweaters. It was mad all the time, and it played the game carnivorously. Siwash was delirious with joy. The whole school turned out for practice, and to see those eleven men snapping through signals up and down the field as fast as an ordinary man could run just congested us with happiness. You've no idea what a lovely time of the year autumn is when you can go out after classes and sit on a pine seat in the soft dusk and watch your college team pulling off end runs in as pretty formation as if they were chorus girls, while you discuss lazily with your friends just how many points it is going to run up on the neighboring schools. I never expect to be a Captain of Industry, but it couldn't make me feel any more contented or powerful or complacent than to be a busted-up scrub in Siwash, with a team like that to watch. I'm pretty sure of that.
But, happy as we were, Bost wasn't nearly content. He had ideals. I believe one of them must have been to run that team through a couple of brick flats without spoiling the formation. Nothing satisfied him. He was particularly distressed about the fullback. Hogboom was a good fellow and took signal practice perfectly, but he was no fiend. He lacked the vivacity of a real, first-class Bengal tiger. He wouldn't eat any one alive. He'd run until he was pulled down, but you never expected him to explode in the midst of seven hostiles and ricochet down the field for forty yards. He never jumped over two men and on to another, and he never dodged two ways at once and laid out three men with stiff arms on his way to the goal. It wasn't his style. He was good for two and a half yards every time, but that didn't suit Bost. He was after statistics, and what does a three-yard buck amount to when you want 70 to 0 scores?
The result of this dissatisfaction was Ole Skjarsen. Late in September Bost disappeared for three days and came back leading Ole by a rope—at least, he was towing him by an old carpet-bag when we sighted him. Bost found him in a lumber camp, he afterward told us, and had to explain to him what a college was before he would quit his job. He thought it was something good to eat at first, I believe. Ole was a timid young Norwegian giant, with a rick of white hair and a reenforced concrete physique. He escaped from his clothes in all directions, and was so green and bashful that you would have thought we were cannibals from the way he shied at us—though, as that was the year the bright hat-ribbons came in, I can't blame him. He wasn't like anything we had ever seen before in college. He was as big as a carthorse, as graceful as a dray and as meek as a missionary. He had a double width smile and a thin little old faded voice that made you think you could tip him over and shine your shoes on him with impunity. But I wouldn't have tried it for a month's allowance. His voice and his arms didn't harmonize worth a cent. They were as big as ordinary legs—those arms, and they ended in hands that could have picked up a football and mislaid it among their fingers.
No wonder Ole was a sensation. He didn't look exactly like football material to us, I'll admit. He seemed more especially designed for light derrick work. But we trusted Bost implicitly by that time and we gave him a royal reception. We crowded around him as if he had been a T. R. capture straight from Africa. Everybody helped him register third prep, with business-college extras. Then we took him out, harnessed him in football armor, and set to work to teach him the game.
Bost went right to work on Ole in a businesslike manner. He tossed him the football and said: "Catch it." Ole watched it sail past and then tore after it like a pup retrieving a stick. He got it in a few minutes and brought it back to where Bost was raving.
"See here, you overgrown fox terrier," he shouted, "catch it on the fly. Here!" He hurled it at him.
"Aye ent seen no fly," said Ole, allowing the ball to pass on as he conversed.
"You cotton-headed Scandinavian cattleship ballast, catch that ball in your arms when I throw it to you, and don't let go of it!" shrieked Bost, shooting it at him again.
"Oll right," said Ole patiently. He cornered the ball after a short struggle and stood hugging it faithfully.
"Toss it back, toss it back!" howled Bost, jumping up and down.
"Yu tal me to hold it," said Ole reproachfully, hugging it tighter than ever.
"Drop it, you Mammoth Cave of ignorance!" yelled Bost. "If I had your head I'd sell it for cordwood. Drop it!"
Ole dropped the ball placidly. "Das ban fule game," he smiled dazedly. "Aye ent care for it. Eny faller got a Yewsharp?"
That was the opening chapter of Ole's instruction. The rest were just like it. You had to tell him to do a thing. You then had to show him how to do it. You then had to tell him how to stop doing it. After that you had to explain that he wasn't to refrain forever—just until he had to do it again. Then you had to persuade him to do it again. He was as good-natured as a lost puppy, and just as hard to reason with. In three nights Bost was so hoarse that he couldn't talk. He had called Ole everything in the dictionary that is fit to print; and the knowledge that Ole didn't understand more than a hundredth part of it, and didn't mind that, was wormwood to his soul.
For all that, we could see that if any one could teach Ole the game he would make a fine player. He was as hard as flint and so fast on his feet that we couldn't tackle him any more than we could have tackled a jack-rabbit. He learned to catch the ball in a night, and as for defense—his one-handed catches of flying players would have made a National League fielder envious. But with all of it he was perfectly useless. You had to start him, stop him, back him, speed him up, throttle him down and run him off the field just as if he had been a close-coupled, next year's model scootcart. If we could have rigged up a driver's seat and chauffeured Ole, it would have been all right. But every other method of trying to get him to understand what he was expected to do was a failure. He just grinned, took orders, executed them, and waited for more. When a two-hundred-and-twenty-pound man takes a football, wades through eleven frantic scrubs, shakes them all off, and then stops dead with a clear field to the goal before him—because his instructions ran out when he shook the last scrub—you can be pardoned for feeling hopeless about him.
That was what happened the day before the Muggledorfer game. Bost had been working Ole at fullback all evening. He and the captain had steered him up and down the field as carefully as if he had been a sea-going yacht. It was a wonderful sight. Ole was under perfect control. He advanced the ball five yards, ten yards, or twenty at command. Nothing could stop him. The scrubs represented only so many doormats to him. Every time he made a play he stopped at the latter end of it for instructions.
When he stopped the last time, with nothing before him but the goal, and asked placidly, "Vere skoll I take das ball now, Master Bost?" I thought the coach would expire of the heat. He positively steamed with suppressed emotion. He swelled and got purple about the face. We were alarmed and were getting ready to hoop him like a barrel when he found his tongue at last.
"You pale-eyed, prehistoric mudhead," he spluttered, "I've spent a week trying to get through that skull lining of yours. It's no use, you field boulder. Where do you keep your brains? Give me a chance at them. I just want to get into them one minute and stir them up with my finger. To think that I have to use you to play football when they are paying five dollars and a half for ox meat in Kansas City. Skjarsen, do you know anything at all?"
"Aye ban getting gude eddication," said Ole serenely. "Aye tank I ban college faller purty sune, I don't know. I like I skoll understand all das har big vorts yu make."
"You'll understand them, I don't think," moaned Bost. "You couldn't understand a swift kick in the ribs. You are a fool. Understand that, muttonhead?"
Ole understood. "Vy for yu call me fule?" he said indignantly. "Aye du yust vat you say."
"Ar-r-r-r!" bubbled Bost, walking around himself three or four times. "You do just what I say! Of course you do. Did I tell you to stop in the middle of the field? What would Muggledorfer do to you if you stopped there?"
"Yu ent tal me to go on," said Ole sullenly. "Aye go on, Aye gass, pooty qveek den."
"You bet you'll go on," said Bost. "Now, look here, you sausage material, to-morrow you play fullback. You stop everything that comes at you from the other side. Hear? You catch the ball when it comes to you. Hear? And when they give you the ball you take it, and don't you dare to stop with it. Get that? Can I get that into your head without a drill and a blast? If you dare to stop with that ball I'll ship you back to the lumber camp in a cattle car. Stop in the middle of the field—Ow!"
But at this point we took Bost away.
The next afternoon we dressed Ole up in his armor—he invariably got it on wrong side out if we didn't help him—and took him out to the field. We confidently expected to promenade all over Muggledorfer—their coach was an innocent child beside Bost—and that was the reason why Ole was going to play. It didn't matter much what he did.
Ole was just coming to a boil when we got him into his clothes. Bost's remarks had gotten through his hide at last. He was pretty slow, Ole was, but he had begun getting mad the night before and had kept at the job all night and all morning. By afternoon he was seething, mostly in Norwegian. The injustice of being called a muttonhead all week for not obeying orders, and then being called a mudhead for stopping for orders, churned his soul, to say nothing of his language. He only averaged one English word in three, as he told us on the way out that to-day he was going to do exactly as he had been told or fill a martyr's grave—only that wasn't the way he put it.
The Muggledorfers were a pruny-looking lot. We had the game won when our team came out and glared at them. Bost had filled most of the positions with regular young mammoths, and when you dressed them up in football armor they were enough to make a Dreadnought a little nervous. The Muggleses kicked off to our team, and for a few plays we plowed along five or ten yards at a time. Then Ole was given the ball. He went twenty-five yards. Any other man would have been crushed to earth in five. He just waded through the middle of the line and went down the field, a moving mass of wriggling men. It was a wonderful play. They disinterred him at last and he started straight across the field for Bost.
"Aye ent mean to stop, Master Bost," he shouted. "Dese fallers har, dey squash me down—"
We hauled him into line and went to work again. Ole had performed so well that the captain called his signal again. This time I hope I may be roasted in a subway in July if Ole didn't run twenty-five yards with four Muggledorfer men hanging on his legs. We stood up and yelled until our teeth ached. It took about five minutes to get Ole dug out, and then he started for Bost again.
"Honest, Master Bost, Aye ent mean to stop," he said imploringly. "Aye yust tal you, dese fallers ban devils. Aye fule dem naxt time—"
"Line up and shut up," the captain shouted. The ball wasn't over twenty yards from the line, and as a matter of course the quarter shot it back to Ole. He put his head down, gave one mad-bull plunge, laid a windrow of Muggledorfer players out on either side, and shot over the goal line like a locomotive.
We rose up to cheer a few lines, but stopped to stare. Ole didn't stop at the goal line. He didn't stop at the fence. He put up one hand, hurdled it, and disappeared across the campus like a young whirlwind.
"He doesn't know enough to stop!" yelled Bost, rushing up to the fence. "Hustle up, you fellows, and bring him back!"
Three or four of us jumped the fence, but it was a hopeless game. Ole was disappearing up the campus and across the street. The Muggledorfer team was nonplussed and sort of indignant. To be bowled over by a cyclone, and then to have said cyclone break up the game by running away with the ball was to them a new idea in football. It wasn't to those of us who knew Ole, however. One of us telephoned down to the Leader office where Hinckley, an old team man, worked, and asked him to head off Ole and send him back. Muggledorfer kindly consented to call time, and we started after the fugitive ourselves.
Ten minutes later we met Hinckley downtown. He looked as if he had had a slight argument with a thirteen-inch shell. He was also mad.
"What was that you asked me to stop?" he snorted, pinning himself together. "Was it a gorilla or a high explosive? When did you fellows begin importing steam rollers for the team? I asked him to stop. I ordered him to stop. Then I went around in front of him to stop him—and he ran right over me. I held on for thirty yards, but that's no way to travel. I could have gone to the next town just as well, though. What sort of a game is this, and where is that tow-headed holy terror bound for?"
We gave the answer up, but we couldn't give up Ole. He was too valuable to lose. How to catch him was the sticker. An awful uproar in the street gave us an idea. It was Ted Harris in the only auto in town—one of the earliest brands of sneeze vehicles. In a minute more four of us were in, and Ted was chiveying the thing up the street.
If you've never chased an escaping fullback in one of those pioneer automobiles you've got something coming. Take it all around, a good, swift man, running all the time, could almost keep ahead of one. We pumped up a tire, fixed a wire or two, and cranked up a few times; and the upshot of it was we were two miles out on the state road before we caught sight of Ole.
He was trotting briskly when we caught up with him, the ball under his arm, and that patient, resigned expression on his face that he always had when Bost cussed him. "Stop, Ole," I yelled; "this is no Marathon. Come back. Climb in here with us."
Ole shook his head and let out a notch of speed.
"Stop, you mullethead," yelled Simpson above the roar of the auto—those old machines could roar some, too. "What do you mean by running off with our ball? You're not supposed to do hare-and-hounds in football."
Ole kept on running. We drove the car on ahead, stopped it across the road, and jumped out to stop him. When the attempt was over three of us picked up the fourth and put him aboard. Ole had tramped on us and had climbed over the auto.
Force wouldn't do, that was plain. "Where are you going, Ole?" we pleaded as we tore along beside him.
"Aye ent know," he panted, laboring up a hill; "das ban fule game, Aye tenk."
"Come on back and play some more," we urged. "Bost won't like it, your running all over the country this way."
"Das ban my orders," panted Ole. "Aye ent no fule, yentlemen; Aye know ven Aye ban doing right teng. Master Bost he say 'Keep on running!' Aye gass I run till hal freeze on top. Aye ent know why. Master Bost he know, I tenk."
"This is awful," said Lambert, the manager of the team. "He's taken Bost literally again—the chump. He'll run till he lands up in those pine woods again. And that ball cost the association five dollars. Besides, we want him. What are we going to do?"
"I know," I said. "We're going back to get Bost. I guess the man who started him can stop him."
We left Ole still plugging north and ran back to town. The game was still hanging fire. Bost was tearing his hair. Of course, the Muggledorfer fellows could have insisted on playing, but they weren't anxious. Ole or no Ole, we could have walked all over them, and they knew it. Besides, they were having too much fun with Bost. They were sitting around, Indian-like, in their blankets, and every three minutes their captain would go and ask Bost with perfect politeness whether he thought they had better continue the game there or move it on to the next town in time to catch his fullback as he came through.
"Of course, we are in no hurry," he would explain pleasantly; "we're just here for amusement, anyway; and it's as much fun watching you try to catch your players as it is to get scored on. Why don't you hobble them, Mr. Bost? A fifty-yard rope wouldn't interfere much with that gay young Percheron of yours, and it would save you lots of time rounding him up. Do you have to use a lariat when you put his harness on?"
Fancy Bost having to take all that conversation, with no adequate reply to make. When I got there he was blue in the face. It didn't take him half a second to decide what to do. Telling the captain of the Siwash team to go ahead and play if Muggledorfer insisted, and on no account to use that 32 double-X play except on first downs, he jumped into the machine and we started for Ole.
There were no speed records in those days. Wouldn't have made any difference if there were. Harris just turned on all the juice his old double-opposed motor could soak up, and when we hit the wooden crossings on the outskirts of town we fellows in the tonneau went up so high that we changed sides coming down. It wasn't over twenty minutes till we sighted a little cloud of dust just beyond a little town to the north. Pretty soon we saw it was Ole. He was still doing his six miles per. We caught up and Bost hopped out, still mad.
"Where in Billy-be-blamed are you going, you human trolley car?" he spluttered, sprinting along beside Skjarsen. "What do you mean by breaking up a game in the middle and vamoosing with the ball? Do you think we're going to win this game on mileage? Turn around, you chump, and climb into this car."
Ole looked around him sadly. He kept on running as he did. "Aye ent care to stop," he said. "Aye kent suit you, Master Bost. You tal me Aye skoll du a teng, den you cuss me for duing et. You tal me not to du a teng and you cuss me some more den. Aye tenk I yust keep on a-running, lak yu tal me tu last night. Et ent so hard bein' cussed ven yu ban running."
"I tell you to stop, you potato-top," gasped Bost. By this time he was fifteen yards behind and losing at every step. He had wasted too much breath on oratory. We picked him up in the car and set him alongside of Ole again.
"See here, Ole, I'm tired of this," he said, sprinting up by him again. "The game's waiting. Come on back. You're making a fool of yourself."
"Eny teng Aye du Aye ban beeg fule," said Ole gloomily. "Aye yust keep on runnin'. Fallers ent got breath to call me fule ven Aye run. Aye tenk das best vay."
We picked Bost up again thirty yards behind. Maybe he would have run better if he hadn't choked so in his conversation. In another minute we landed him abreast of Ole again. He got out and sprinted for the third time. He wabbled as he did it.
"Ole," he panted, "I've been mistaken in you. You are all right, Ole. I never saw a more intelligent fellow. I won't cuss you any more, Ole. If you'll stop now we'll take you back in an automobile—hold on there a minute; can't you see I'm all out of breath?"
"Aye ban gude faller, den?" asked Ole, letting out another link of speed.
"You are a"—puff-puff—"peach, Ole," gasped Bost. "I'll"—puff-puff—"never cuss you again. Please"—puff-puff—"stop! Oh, hang it, I'm all in." And Bost sat down in the road.
A hundred yards on we noticed Ole slacken speed. "It's sinking through his skull," said Harris eagerly. In another minute he had stopped. We picked up Bost again and ran up to him. He surveyed us long and critically.
"Das ban qveer masheen," he said finally. "Aye tenk Aye lak Aye skoll be riding back in it. Aye ent care for das futball game, Aye gass. It ban tu much running in it."
We took Ole back to town in twenty-two minutes, three chickens, a dog and a back spring. It was close to five o'clock when he ran out on the field again. The Muggledorfer team was still waiting. Time was no object to them. They would only play ten minutes, but in that ten minutes Ole made three scores. Five substitutes stood back of either goal and asked him with great politeness to stop as he tore over the line. And he did it. If any one else had run six miles between halves he would have stopped a good deal short of the line. But as far as we could see, it hadn't winded Ole.
Bost went home by himself that night after the game, not stopping even to assure us that as a team we were beneath his contempt. The next afternoon he was, if anything, a little more vitriolic than ever—but not with Ole. Toward the middle of the signal practice he pulled himself together and touched Ole gently.
"My dear Mr. Skjarsen," he said apologetically, "if it will not annoy you too much, would you mind running the same way the rest of the team does? I don't insist on it, mind you, but it looks so much better to the audience, you know."
"Jas," said Ole; "Aye ban fule, Aye gass, but yu ban tu polite to say it."
Were you ever Hamburgered by a real, live college fraternity? I mean, were you ever initiated into full brotherhood by a Greek-letter society with the aid of a baseball bat, a sausage-making machine, a stick of dynamite and a corn-sheller? What's that? You say you belong to the Up-to-Date Wood-choppers and have taken the josh degree in the Noble Order of Prong-Horned Wapiti? Forget it. Those aren't initiations. They are rest cures. I went into one of those societies which give horse-play initiations for middle-aged daredevils last year and was bored to death because I forgot to bring my knitting. They are stiff enough for fat business men who never do anything more exciting than to fall over the lawn mower in the cellar once a year; but, compared with a genuine, eighteen-donkey-power college frat initiation with a Spanish Inquisition attachment, the little degree teams, made up of grandfathers, feel like a slap on the wrist delivered by a young lady in frail health.
Mind you, I'm not talking about the baby-ribbon affairs that the college boys use nowadays. It doesn't seem to be the fashion to grease the landscape with freshmen any more. Initiations are getting to be as safe and sane as an ice-cream festival in a village church. When a frat wants to submit a neophyte to a trying ordeal it sends him out on the campus to climb a tree, or makes him go to a dance in evening clothes with a red necktie on. A boy who can roll a peanut half a mile with a toothpick, or can fish all morning in a pail of water in front of the college chapel without getting mad and trying to thrash any one is considered to be lion-hearted enough to ornament any frat. These are mollycoddle times in all departments. I'm glad I'm out of college and am catching street cars in the rush hours. That is about the only job left that feels like the good old times in college when muscles were made to jar some one else with.
Eight or ten years ago, when a college fraternity absorbed a freshman, the job was worth talking about. There was no half-way business about it. The freshman could tell at any stage of the game that something was being done to him. They just ate him alive, that was all. Why, at Siwash, where I was lap-welded into the Eta Bita Pies, any fraternity which initiated a candidate and left enough of him to appear in chapel the next morning was the joke of the school. Even the girls' fraternities gave it the laugh. The girls used to do a little quiet initiating themselves, and when they received a sister into membership you could generally follow her mad career over the town by a trail of hairpins, "rats" and little fragments of dressgoods.
Those were the days when the pledgling of a good high-pressure frat wrote to his mother the night before he was taken in and telegraphed her when he found himself alive in the morning. There used to be considerable rivalry between the frats at Siwash in the matter of giving a freshman a good, hospitable time. I remember when the Sigh Whoopsilons hung young Allen from the girder of an overhead railroad crossing, and let the switch engines smoke him up for two hours as they passed underneath, there was a good deal of jealousy among the rest of us who hadn't thought of it. The Alfalfa Delts went them one better by tying roller skates to the shoulders and hips of a big freshman football star and hauling him through the main streets of Jonesville on his back, behind an automobile, and the Chi Yi's covered a candidate with plaster of Paris, with blow-holes for his nose, sculptured him artistically, and left him before the college chapel on a pedestal all night. The Delta Kappa Sonofaguns set fire to their house once by shooting Roman candles at a row of neophytes in the cellar, and we had to turn out at one A. M. one winter morning to help the Delta Flushes dig a freshman out of their chimney. They had been trying to let him down into the fireplace, and when he got stuck they had poked at him with a clothes pole until they had mussed him up considerably. This just shows you what a gay life the young scholar led in the days when every ritual had claws on, and there was no such thing as soothing syrup in the equipment of a college.
Of all the frats at Siwash the Eta Bita Pies, when I was in college, were preeminent in the art of near-killing freshmen. We used to call our initiation "A little journey to the pearly gates," and once or twice it looked for a short time as if the victim had mislaid his return ticket. Treat yourself to an election riot, a railway collision and a subway explosion, all in one evening, and you will get a rather sketchy idea of what we aimed at. I don't mean, of course, that we ever killed any one. There is no real danger in an initiation, you know, if the initiate does exactly as he is told and the members don't get careless and something that wasn't expected doesn't happen—as did when we tied Tudor Snyder to the south track while an express went by on the north track, and then had the time of our young lives getting him off ahead of a wild freight which we hadn't counted on. All we ever aimed at was to make the initiate so thankful to get through alive that he would love Eta Bita Pie forever, and I must say we usually succeeded. It is wonderful what a young fellow will endure cheerfully for the sake of passing it on to some one else the next year. I remember I was pretty mad when my Eta Bita Pie brethren headed me up in a barrel and rolled me downhill into a creek without taking the trouble to remove all the nails. It seemed like wanton carelessness. But long before my nose was out of splints and my hide would hold water I was perfecting our famous "Lover's Leap" for the next year's bunch. That was our greatest triumph. There was an abandoned rock quarry north of town with thirty feet of water in the bottom and a fifty-foot drop to the water. By means of a long beam and a system of pulleys we could make a freshman walk the plank and drop off into the water in almost perfect safety, providing the ropes didn't break. It created a sensation, and the other frats were mad with jealousy. We took every man we wanted the next fall before the authorities put a stop to the scheme. That shows you just how repugnant the idea of being initiated is to the green young collegian.
Of course, fraternity initiations are supposed to be conducted for the amusement of the chapter and not of the candidate. But you can't always entirely tell what will happen, especially if the victim is husky and unimpressionable. Sometimes he does a little initiating himself. And that reminds me that I started out to tell a story and not to give a lecture on the polite art of making veal salad. Did I ever tell you of the time when we initiated Ole Skjarsen into Eta Bita Pie, and how the ceremony backfired and very nearly blew us all into the discard? No? Well, don't get impatient and look in the back of the book. I'll tell it now and cut as many corners as I can.
As I have told you before, Ole Skjarsen was a little slow in grasping the real beauties of football science. It took him some time to uncoil his mind from the principles of woodchopping and concentrate it on the full duty of man in a fullback's position. He nearly drove us to a sanitarium during the process, but when he once took hold, mercy me, how he did progress from hither to yon over the opposition! He was the wonder fullback of those times, and at the end of three years there wasn't a college anywhere that didn't have Ole's hoofmarks all over its pride. Oh, he was a darling. To see him jumping sideways down a football field with the ball under his arm, landing on some one of the opposition at every jump and romping over the goal line with tacklers hanging to him like streamers would have made you want to vote for him for Governor. Ole was the greatest man who ever came to Siwash. Prexy had always been considered some personage by the outside world, but he was only a bump in the background when Ole was around.
Of course we all loved Ole madly, but for all that he didn't make a frat. He didn't, for the same reason that a rhinoceros doesn't get invited to garden parties. He didn't seem to fit the part. Not only his clothes, but also his haircuts were hand-me-down. He regarded a fork as a curiosity. His language was a sort of a head-on collision between Norwegian and English in which very few words had come out undamaged. In social conversation he was out of bounds nine minutes out of ten, and it kept three men busy changing the subject when he was in full swing. He could dodge eleven men and a referee on the football field without trying, but put him in a forty by fifty room with one vase in it, and he couldn't dodge it to save his life.
No, he just naturally didn't fit the part, and up to his senior year no fraternity had bid him. This grieved Ole so that he retired from football just before the Kiowa game on which all our young hearts were set, and before he would consent to go back and leave some more of his priceless foot-tracks on the opposition we had to pledge him to three of our proudest fraternities. Talk of wedding a favorite daughter to the greasy villain in the melodrama in order to save the homestead! No crushed father, with a mortgage hanging over him in the third act, could have felt one-half so badly as we Eta Bita Pies did when we had pledged Ole and realized that all the rest of the year we would have to climb over him in our beautiful, beamed-ceiling lounging-room and parade him before the world as a much-loved brother.
But the job had to be done, and all three frats took a melancholy pleasure in arranging the details of the initiation. We decided to make it a three-night demonstration of all that the Siwash frats had learned in the art of imitating dynamite and other disintegrants. The Alfalfa Delts were to get first crack at him. They were to be followed on the second night by the Chi Yi Sighs, who were to make him a brother, dead or alive. On the third night we of Eta Bita Pie were to take the remains and decorate them with our fraternity pin after ceremonies in which being kicked by a mule would only be considered a two-minute recess.
We fellows knew that when it came to initiating Ole we would have to do the real work. The other frats couldn't touch it. They might scratch him up a bit, but they lacked the ingenuity, the enthusiasm—I might say the poetic temperament—to make a good job of it. We determined to put on an initiation which would make our past efforts seem like the effort of an old ladies' home to start a rough-house. It was a great pleasure, I assure you, to plan that initiation. We revised our floor work and added some cellar and garret and ceiling and second-story work to it. We began the program with the celebrated third degree and worked gradually from that up to the twenty-third degree, with a few intervals of simple assault and battery for breathing spells. When we had finished doping out the program we shook hands all around. It was a masterpiece. It would have made Battenberg lace out of a steam boiler.
Ole was initiated into the Alfalfa Delts on a Wednesday night. We heard echoes of it from our front porch. The next morning only three of the Alfalfa Delts appeared at chapel, while Ole was out at six A. M., roaming about the campus with the Alfalfa Delt pin on his necktie. The next night the Chi Yi Sighs took him on for one hundred and seventeen rounds in their brand new lodge, which had a sheet-iron initiation den. The whole thing was a fizzle. When we looked Ole over the next morning we couldn't find so much as a scratch on him. He was wearing the Chi Yi pin beside the Alfalfa Delt pin, and he was as happy as a baby with a bottle of ink. There were nine broken window-lights in the Chi Yi lodge, and we heard in a roundabout way that they called in the police about three A. M. to help them explain to Ole that the initiation was over. That's the kind of a trembling neophyte Ole was. But we just giggled to ourselves. Anybody could break up a Chi Yi initiation, and the Alfalfa Delts were a set of narrow-chested snobs with automobile callouses instead of muscles. We ate a hasty dinner on Friday evening and set all the scenery for the big scrunch. Then we put on our old clothes and waited for Ole to walk into our parlor.
He wasn't due until nine, but about eight o'clock he came creaking up the steps and dented the door with his large knuckles in a bashful way. He looked larger and knobbier than ever and, if anything, more embarrassed. We led him into the lounging-room in silence, and he sat down twirling his straw hat. It was October, and he had worn the thing ever since school opened. Other people who wore straw hats in October get removed from under them more or less violently; but, somehow, no one had felt called upon to maltreat Ole. We hated that hat, however, and decided to begin the evening's work on it.
"Your hat, Mr. Skjarsen," said Bugs Wilbur in majestic tones.
Ole reached the old ruin out. Wilbur took it and tossed it into the grate. Ole upset four or five of us who couldn't get out of the way and rescued the hat, which was blazing merrily.
"Ent yu gat no sanse?" he roared angrily. "Das ban a gude hat." He looked at it gloomily. "Et ban spoiled now," he growled, tossing the remains into a waste-paper basket. "Yu ban purty fallers. Vat for yu do dat?"
The basket was full of papers and things. In about four seconds it was all ablaze. Wilbur tried to go over and choke it off, but Ole pushed him back with one forefinger.
"Yust stay avay," he growled. "Das basket ent costing some more as my hat, I gass."
We stood around and watched the basket burn. We also watched a curtain blaze up and the finish on a nice mahogany desk crack and blister. It was all very humorous. The fire kindly went out of its own accord, and some one tiptoed around and opened the windows in a timid sort of way. It was a very successful initiation so far—only we were the neophytes.
"This won't do," muttered "Allie" Bangs, our president. He got up and went over to Ole. "Mr. Skjarsen," he said severely, "you are here to be initiated into the awful mysteries of Eta Bita Pie. It is not fitting that you should enter her sacred boundaries in an unfettered condition. Submit to the brethren, that they may blindfold you and bind you for the ordeals to come." Gee, but we used to use hand-picked language when we were unsheathing our claws!
Ole growled. "Ol rite," he said. "But Aye tal yu ef yu fallers burn das har west lak yu burn ma hat I skoll raise ruffhaus like deekins!"
We tied his hands behind him with several feet of good stout rope and hobbled him about the ankles with a dog chain. Then we blindfolded him and put a pillowslip over his head for good measure. Things began to look brighter. Even a demon fullback has to have one or two limbs working in order to accomplish anything. When all was fast Bangs gave Ole a preliminary kick. "Now, brethren," he roared, "bring on the Macedonian guards and give them the neophyte!"
Now I'm not revealing any real initiation secrets, mind you, and maybe what I'm telling you didn't exactly happen. But you can be perfectly sure that something just as bad did happen every time. For an hour we abused that two hundred and twenty pounds of gristle and hide. It was as much fun as roughhousing a two-ton safe. We rolled him downstairs. He broke out sixty dollars' worth of balustrade on the way and he didn't seem to mind it at all. We tried to toss him in a blanket. Ever have a two-hundred-and-twenty-pound man land on you coming down from the ceiling? We got tired of that. We made him play automobile. Ever play automobile? They tie roller skates and an automobile horn on you and push you around into the furniture, just the way a real automobile runs into things. We broke a table, five chairs, a French window, a one-hundred-dollar vase and seven shins. We didn't even interest Ole. When a man has plowed through leather-covered football players for three years his head gets used to hitting things. Also his heels will fly out no matter how careful you are. We took him into the basement and performed our famous trick of boiling the candidate in oil. Of course we wanted to scare him. He accommodated us. He broke away and hopped stiff-legged all over the room. That wasn't so bad, but, confound it, he hopped on us most of the time! How would you like to initiate a bronze statue that got scared and hopped on you?
We got desperate. We threw aside the formality of explaining the deep significance of each action and just assaulted Ole with everything in the house. We prodded him with furnace tools and thumped him with cordwood and rolling-pins and barrel-staves and shovels. We walked over him, a dozen at a time. And all the time we were getting it worse than he was. He didn't exactly fight, but whenever his elbows twitched some fellow's face would happen to be in the way, and he couldn't move his knee without getting it tangled in some one's ribs. You could hear the thunders of the assault and the shrieks of the wounded for a block.
At the end of an hour we were positively all in. There weren't three of us unwounded. The house was a wreck. Wilbur had a broken nose. "Chick" Struthers' kneecap hurt. "Lima" Bean's ribs were telescoped, and there wasn't a good shin in the house. We quit in disgust and sat around looking at Ole. He was sitting around, too. He happened to be sitting on Bangs, who was yelling for help. But we didn't feel like starting any relief expedition.
Ole was some rumpled, and his clothes looked as if they had been fed into a separator. But he was intact, as far as we could see. He was still tied and blindfolded, and I hope to be buried alive in a branch-line town if he wasn't getting bored.
"Vat fur yu qvit?" he asked. "It ent fun setting around har."
Then Petey Simmons, who had been taking a minor part in the assault in order to give his wheels full play, rose and beckoned the crowd outside. We left Ole and clustered around him.
"Now, this won't do at all," he said. "Are we going to let Eta Bita Pie be made the laughing-stock of the college? If we can't initiate that human quartz mill by force let's do it by strategy. I've got a plan. You just let me have Ole and one man for an hour and I'll make him so glad to get back to the house that he'll eat out of our hands."
We were dead ready to turn the job over to Petey, though we hated to see him put his head in the lion's mouth, so to speak. I hated it worse than any of the others because he picked me for his assistant. We went in and found Ole dozing in the corner. Petey prodded him. "Get up!" he said.
Ole got up cheerfully. Petey took the dog chain off of his legs. Then he threw his sub-cellar voice into gear.
"Skjarsen," he rumbled, "you have passed right well the first test of our noble order. You have faced the hideous dangers which were in reality but shams to prove your faith, and you have borne your sufferings patiently, thus proving your meekness."
I let a couple of grins escape into my sweater-sleeve. Oh, yes, Ole had been meek all right.
"It remains for you to prove your desire," said Petey in curdled tones. "Listen!" He gave the Eta Bita Pie whistle. We had the best whistle in college. It was six notes—a sort of insidious, inviting thing that you could slide across two blocks, past all manner of barbarians, and into a frat brother's ear without disturbing any one at all. Petey gave it several times. "Now, Skjarsen," he said, "you are to follow that whistle. Let no obstacle discourage you. Let no barrier stop you. If you can prove your loyalty by following that whistle through the outside world and back to the altar of Eta Bita Pie we will ask no more of you. Come on!"
We tiptoed out of the cellar and whistled. Ole followed us up the steps. That is, he did on the second attempt. On the first he fell down with melodious thumps. We hugged each other, slipped behind a tree and whistled again.
Ole charged across the yard and into the tree. The line held. I heard him say something in Norwegian that sounded secular. By that time we were across the street. There was a low railing around the parking, and when we whistled again Ole walked right into the railing. The line held again.
Oh, I'll tell you that Petey boy was a wonder at getting up ideas. Think of it! Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Christopher Columbus, old Bill Archimedes and all the rest of the wise guys had overlooked this simple little discovery of how to make a neophyte initiate himself. It was too good to be true. We held a war dance of pure delight, and we whistled some more. We got behind stone walls, and whistled. We climbed embankments, and whistled. We slid behind blackberry bushes and ash piles and across ditches and over hedge fences, and whistled. We were so happy we could hardly pucker. Think of it! There was Ole Skjarsen, the most uncontrollable force in Nature, following us like a yellow pup with his dinner three days overdue. It was as fascinating as guiding a battleship by wireless.
We slipped across a footbridge over Cedar Creek, and whistled. Ole missed the bridge by nine yards. There isn't much water in Cedar Creek, but what there is is strong. It took Ole fifteen minutes to climb the other bank, owing to a beautiful collection of old barrel-hoops, corsets, crockery and empty tomato cans which decorated the spot. Did you ever see a blindfolded man, with his hands tied behind his back, trying to climb over a city dump? No? Of course not, any more than you have seen a green elephant. But it's a fine sight, I assure you. When Ole got out of the creek we whistled him dexterously into a barnyard and right into the maw of a brindle bull-pup with a capacity of one small man in two bites—we being safe on the other side of the fence, beyond the reach of the chain. Maybe that was mean, but Eta Bita Pie is not to be trifled with when she is aroused. Anyway, the bull got the worst of it. He only got one bite. Ole kicked in the barn door on the first try, and demolished a corn-sheller on the second; but on the third he hit the pup squarely abeam and dropped a beautiful goal with him. We went around to see the dog the next day. He looked quite natural. You would almost think he was alive.
It was here that we began to smell trouble. I had my suspicions when we whistled again. There was a pretty substantial fence around that barnyard, but Ole didn't wait to find the gate.
He came through the fence not very far from us. He was conversing under that mangled pillowslip, and we heard fragments sounding like this:
"Purty soon Aye gat yu—yu spindle-shank, vite-face, skagaroot-smokin' dudes! Ugh—ump!"—here he caromed off a tree. "Ven Aye gat das blindfold off, Aye gat yu—yu Baked-Pie galoots!—Ugh! Wow!"—barbed-wire fence. "Vistle sum more, yu vide-trousered polekats. Aye make yu vistle, Aye bet yu, rite avay! Up—pllp—pllp!" That's the kind of noise a man makes when he walks into a horse-trough at full speed.
"Gee!" said Petey nervously. "I guess we've given him enough. He's getting sort of peevish. I don't believe in being too cruel. Let's take him back now. You don't suppose he can get his hands loose, do you?"
I didn't know. I wished I did. Of course, when you watch a lion trying to get at you from behind a fairly strong cage you feel perfectly safe, but you feel safer when you are somewhere else, just the same. We got out on the pavement and gave a gentle whistle.
"Aye har yu!" roared Ole, coming through a chicken yard. "Aye har yu, you leetle Baked Pies! Aye gat yu purty soon. Yust vait."
We didn't wait. We put on a little more gasoline and started for the frat house. We didn't have to whistle any more. Ole was right behind us. We could hear him thundering on the pavement and pleading with us in that rich, nutty dialect of his to stop and have our heads pounded on the bricks.
I shudder yet when I think of all the things he promised to do to us. We went down that street like a couple of Roman gladiators pacing a hungry bear, and, by tangling Ole up in the parkings again, managed to get home a few yards ahead.
There was an atmosphere of arnica and dejection in the house when we got there. Ill-health seemed to be rampant. "Did you lose him?" asked Bangs hopefully from behind a big bandage.
"Lose him?" says I with a snort. "Oh, yes, we lost him all right. He loses just like a foxhound. That's him, falling over the front steps now. You can stay and entertain him; I'm going upstairs."
Everybody came along. We piled chairs on the stairs and listened while Ole felt his way over the porch. In about a minute he found the door. Then he came right in. I had locked the door, but I had neglected to reenforce it with concrete and boiler iron. Ole wore part of the frame in with him.
"Come on, yu Baked Pies!" he shouted.
"You're in the wrong house," squeaked that little fool, Jimmy Skelton.
"Yu kent fule me!" said Ole, crashing around the loafing-room. "Aye yust can tal das haus by har skagaroot smell. Come on, yu leetle fallers! Aye bet Aye inittyate yu some, tu!"
By this time he had found the stairs and was plowing through the furniture. We retired to the third floor. When twenty-seven fellows go up a three-foot stairway at once it necessarily makes some noise. Ole heard us and kept right on coming.
We grabbed a bureau and a bed and barricaded the staircase. There was a ladder to the attic. I was the last man up and my heart was giving my ribs all kinds of massage treatment before I got up. We hauled up the ladder just as Ole kicked the bureau downstairs, and then we watched him charge over our beautiful third-floor dormitory, leaving ruin in his wake.
Maybe he would have been satisfied with breaking the furniture. But, of course, a few of us had to sneeze. Ole hunted those sneezes all over the third floor. He couldn't reach them, but he sat down on the wreck underneath them.
"Aye ent know vere yu fallers ban," he said, "but Aye kin vait. Aye har yu, yu Baked Pies! Aye gat yu yet, by yimminy! Yust come on down ven yu ban ready."
Oh, yes, we were ready—I don't think. It was a perfectly lovely predicament. Here was the Damma Yappa chapter of Eta Bita Pie penned up in a deucedly-cold attic with one lone initiate guarding the trapdoor. Nice story for the college to tell when the police rescued us! Nice end of our reputation as the best neophyte jugglers in the school! Makes me shiver now to think of it.
We sat around in that garret and listened to the clock strike in the library tower across the campus. At eleven o'clock Ole promised to kill the first man who came down. That bait caught no fish. At twelve he begged for the privilege of kicking us out of our own house, one by one. At one o'clock he remarked that, while it was pretty cold, it was much colder in Norway, where he came from, and that, as we would freeze first, we might as well come down.
At two o'clock we were all stiff. At three we were kicking the plaster off of the joists, trying to keep from freezing to death. At four a bunch of Sophomores were all for throwing Petey Simmons down as a sacrifice. Petey talked them out of it. Petey could talk a stone dog into wagging its tail.
We sat in that garret from ten P. M. until the year after the great pyramid wore down to the ground. At least that was the length of time that seemed to pass. It must have been about five o'clock when Petey stopped kicking his feet on the chimney and said:
"Well, fellows, I have an idea. It may work or it may not, but—"
"Shut up, you mental desert!" some one growled. "Another of your fine ideas will wreck this frat."
"As I was saying," continued Petey cheerfully, "it may not succeed, but it will not hurt any one but me if it doesn't. I'm going to be the Daniel in this den. But first I want the officers of the chapter to come up around the scuttle-hole with me."
Five of us crept over to the hole and looked down. "Aye har yu, yu leetle Baked Pies!" said Ole, waking in an instant. "Yust come on down. Aye ban vaiting long enough to smash yu!"
"Mr. Skjarsen," began Petey in the regular dark-lantern voice that all secret societies use—"Mr. Skjarsen—for as such we must still call you—the final test is over. You have acquitted yourself nobly. You have been faithful to the end. You have stood your vigil unflinchingly. You have followed the call of Eta Bita Pie over every obstacle and through every suffering."
"Aye ban following him leetle furder, if Aye had ladder," said Ole in a bloodthirsty voice. "Ven Aye ban getting at yu, Aye play hal vid yu Baked Pies!"
"And now," said Petey, ignoring the interruption, "the final ceremony is at hand. Do not fear. Your trials are over. In the dark recesses of this secret chamber above you we have discussed your bearing in the trials that have beset you. It has pleased us. You have been found worthy to continue toward the high goal. Ole Skjarsen, we are now ready to receive you into full membership."
"Come rite on!" snorted Ole. "Aye receeve yu into membership all rite. Yust come on down."
"It won't work, Petey," Bangs groaned. Petey kicked his shins as a sign to shut up.
"Ole Skjarsen, son of Skjar Oleson, stand up!" he said, sinking his voice another story.
Ole got up. It was plain to be seen that he was getting interested.
"The president of this powerful order will now administer the oath," said Petey, shoving Bangs forward.
So there, at five A. M., with the whole chapter treed in a garret, and the officers, the leading lights of Siwash, crouching around a scuttle and shivering their teeth loose, we initiated Ole Skjarsen. It was impressive, I can tell you. When it came to the part where the neophyte swears to protect a brother, even if he has to wade in blood up to his necktie, Bangs bore down beautifully and added a lot of extra frills. The last words were spoken. Ole was an Eta Bita Pie. Still, we weren't very sanguine. You might interest a man-eater by initiating him, but would you destroy his appetite? There was no grand rush for the ladder.
As Ole stood waiting, however, Petey swung himself down and landed beside him. He cut the ropes that bound his wrists, jerked off the pillowslip and cut off the blindfold. Then he grabbed Ole's mastodonic paw.
"Shake, brother!" he said.
Nobody breathed for a few seconds. It was darned terrifying, I can tell you. Ole rubbed his eyes with his free hand and looked down at the morsel hanging on to the other.
"Shake, Ole!" insisted Petey. "You went through it better than I did when I got it."
I saw the rudiments of a smile begin to break out on Ole's face. It grew wider. It got to be a grin; then a chasm with a sunrise on either side.
He looked up at us again, then down at Petey. Then he pumped Petey's arm until the latter danced like a cork bobber.
"By ying, Aye du et!" he shouted. "Ve ban gude fallers, ve Baked Pies, if ve did broke my nose."
"What's the matter with Ole?" some one shouted.
"He's all right!" we yelled. Then we came down out of the garret and made a rush for the furnace.
WHEN GREEK MEETS GROUCH
It's a cinch that college life would be a whole lot more congested with pleasure if it wasn't for the towns that the colleges are in. I don't mean that a town around a college hasn't its uses. Wherever you find a town you can find lunch counters and theaters with galleries from which you can learn the drama at a quarter a throw, and street cars that can be tampered with, and wooden sidewalks that burn well on celebration nights, and nice girls who began being nice four college generations ago and never forgot how. All of these things about a town are mighty handy when it comes to getting a higher education in a good, live college where you don't have to tunnel through three feet of moss to find the college customs. But even all this can't reconcile me to the way a town butts into college affairs. It is something disgusting.
You know it yourself, Bill. Didn't you go to Yellagain where the police arrested the whole Freshman class for painting the Sophomores green? Well, it's the same way all over. No sooner does a college town get big enough to support a rudimentary policeman who peddles vegetables when he isn't putting down anarchy than it gets busy and begins to regulate the college students. And the bigger it gets the more regulating it wants to do. Why, they tell me that at the University of Chicago there hasn't been a riot for nine years, and that over in Washington Park, three blocks away, an eleven-ton statue of old Chris. Columbus has lain for ages and no college class has had spirit enough to haul it out on the street-car tracks. That's what regulating a college does for it. There are more policemen in Chicago than there are students in the University. If you give your yell off the campus you have to get a permit from the city council. It's worse than that in Philadelphia, they tell me. Why, there, if a college student comes downtown with a flareback coat and heart-shaped trousers and one of those nifty little pompadour hats that are brushed back from the brow to give the brains a chance to grow, they arrest him for collecting a crowd and disturbing traffic. No, sir, no big-town college for me. Getting college life in those places reminds me of trying to get that world-wide feeling on ice-cream soda. There's as much chance in one as in the other.
Excuse me for getting sore, but that's the way I do when I begin to talk about college towns. They don't know their places. Take Jonesville, where Siwash is, for instance. When Siwash College was founded by "that noble band of Christian truth seekers," as the catalogue puts it, Jonesville was a mud-hole freckled with houses. The railroad trains whistled "get out of my way" to the town when they whooped through it, and when you went into a merchant's store and woke him up he started off home to dinner from force of habit. The only thing they ever regulated there was the clock. They regulated that once a year and usually found that it was two or three days behind time. Hadn't noticed it at all.
That's what Jonesville was when Siwash started. You can bet for the first forty years they didn't do much regulating around the college. The students just let the town stay there because it was quiet. The citizens used to elect town marshals over seventy years old, so their gray hairs would protect them from the students, and when the boys had won a debate or a ball game and wanted to burn a barn or two to cheer up the atmosphere at evening, nothing at all was said—at least out loud. Jonesville was meek enough, you bet. Why, back in the seventies the students used to vote at town elections, and once for a joke they all voted for old "Apple Sally" for president of the village board. Made her serve, too. Talk about regulating! Did you ever see a farmer's dog go out and try to regulate a sixty-horse-power automobile? That's about as much as Jonesville would have regulated us thirty years ago.
But, of course, having a real peppery college in its midst, Jonesville couldn't help but grow. People came and started boarding-houses. There had to be restaurants and bookstores and necktie emporiums, too, and pretty soon the railroad built a couple of branches into town and started the division shops. Then Jonesville woke up and walked right past old Siwash. In ten years it had street cars, paved streets, water-works, a political machine and a city debt, as large as the law would allow. And worse than that, it had a police force. It had nine officers in uniform, most of whom could read and write and swing big clubs with a strictly American accent. Nice sort of a thing to turn loose in a quiet college town. This was long before my time, but they tell me that the students held indignation meetings for a week after the first arrest was made. You see, the students at Siwash always had their own rules and lived up to them strictly. The Faculty put them on their honor and that honor was never abused. Students were not allowed to burn the college buildings nor kill the professors. These rules were never broken, and naturally the boys felt rather insulted when the city turned loose a horde of blue-coated busybodies to interfere with things that didn't concern them.
Still, Siwash got along very well even after the police force was organized. You see, after a town has had a college in its middle for about fifty years, pretty much everybody in town has attended it at one time or another. None of the police had diplomas, but it was no uncommon thing to see an ex-member of a college debating society delivering groceries, or an ex-president of his class getting up in an engine cab to take the flyer into the city. For years every police magistrate was an old Siwash man, and, though plenty of the boys would get arrested, there were never any thirty-day complications or anything of the sort. Two classes would meet on the main street and muss each other up. The police would arrest nine or ten of the ringleaders. The next morning the prisoners would appear before Squire Jennings, who climbed up on the old college building with his class flag in '54 and kept a rival class away by tearing down the chimney and throwing the bricks at them. Naturally, nothing very deadly happened. The good old fellow would lecture the crowd and let them off with a stern warning. Maybe two or three Seniors would come home late at night from their frat hall and take a wooden Indian cigar sign along with them just for company. One of those Indians is such a steady sort of a chap to have along late at night. Of course, they would be arrested by old Hank Anderson on the courthouse beat, but it wasn't anything serious. They would telephone Frank Hinckley, who was editor of the city daily, and just convalescing from four years of college life himself, and he would come down and bail them out, and Squire Jennings would kick them out of court next morning. Frank was the patron saint of the students for years when it came to bail. He used to say he had all the fun of being a doctor and getting called out nights without having to try to collect any fees. Frank was no Croesus those days and I've seen him go bail for fifteen students at one hundred dollars apiece, when his total assets amounted to a dress suit, three hundred and forty-five photographs and his next week's salary.
By the time I had come to college, getting arrested had gotten to be a regular formality. A Freshman would go up Main Street at night, trying to hide a nine-foot board sign under his spring overcoat. Halvor Skoogerson, a pale-eyed guardian of the peace, who was studying up to be a naturalized, would arrest him for theft, riot, disorderly conduct, suspicious appearance and intoxication, not understanding why any sober man would want to carry a young lumber-yard home under his coat at night. The prisoner would telephone for Hinckley, who would crawl out of bed, come downtown cussing, and bail away in sleepy tones. The next morning the freshie would go up before Squire Jennings, who would ask him in awful accents if he realized that the state penitentiary was only four hours away by fast train, and that many a man was boarding there who would blush to be seen in the company of a man who had stolen a nine-foot sign and carried it down Main Street, interfering with pedestrians, when there was a perfectly good alley which ought to be used for such purposes. Then he would warn the culprit that the next time he was caught lugging off a billboard or a wooden platform or a corncrib he would be compelled to put it back again before he got breakfast; after which he would tell him to go along and try studying for a change, and the Freshman would go back to college and join the hero brigade. It was a mighty meek man in Siwash who couldn't get arrested those days. Even the hymn singers at the Y. M. C. A. had criminal records. It got so, finally, that whenever we had a nightshirt parade in honor of any little college victory the line of march would lead right through the police station. We knew what was coming and would save the cops the trouble of hauling us over in the hustle wagon.
Take it all in all, it was about as much fun to be regulated as it was to run the town. But one night Squire Jennings put his other foot into the grave and died entirely; and before any of us realized what was happening a special election had been held and Malachi Scroggs had been elected police magistrate.
Malachi Scroggs was a triple extract of grouch who lived on the north side two miles away from college in a big white house with one of those old-fashioned dog-house affairs on top of it. He was an acrimonious quarrel all by himself. Sunlight soured when it struck him. I have seen a fox terrier who had been lying perfectly happy on the sidewalk, get up after Scroggs had passed him and go over and bite an automobile tire. He lived on gloom and law-suits and the last time he smiled was 1878—that was when a small boy fell nineteen feet out of a tree while robbing his orchard, and the doctor said he would never be able to rob any more orchards.
This was the kind of mental astringent Malachi was. Naturally, he loved the gay and happy little college boys. Oh, how he loved us! He had complained to the police regularly during each celebration for twenty years and he had expressed the opinion, publicly, that a college boy was a cross between a hyena and a grasshopper with a fog-horn attachment thrown in free of charge. He wasn't a college man himself, you see—never could find one where the students didn't use slang, probably, and he just naturally didn't understand us at all. Of course, we didn't mind that. It's no credit to carry an interlinear translation of your temperament on your face. So long as he kept in his own yard and quarreled with his own dog for not feeding on Freshmen more enthusiastically, we got along as nicely as the Egyptian Sphinx and John L. Sullivan. Even when he was elected police magistrate we didn't object. In fact, we didn't bumpity-bump to the situation until we went up against him in court.
Part of the Senior class had been having a little choir practice in one of the town restaurants. It was a lovely affair and there wasn't a more cheerful crowd of fellows on earth than they were when they marched down the street at one A. M. eighteen abreast and singing one of the dear old songs in a kind of a steam-siren barytone.
Now they had never attempted to regulate mere noise in Jonesville, but that night a brand-new policeman had gone on the courthouse beat, and blamed if he didn't arrest the whole bunch for disturbing the peace—when they hadn't broken a single thing, mind you. They were pretty mad about it at first; but after all it was only a joke, and when Hinckley got down to bail them out they were singing with great feeling a song which Jenkins, the class poet, had just composed, and which ran as follows:
"As we walked along the street Officer Sikes we chanced to meet, And his shoes were full of feet As he prowled along his beat. He took us down and locked us up; Left us in charge of a Norsky Cop, And we didn't get home till early in the morning."
Hold that "morning" as long as you can and tonsorialize to beat the band. Even the desk sergeant enjoyed it.
When the bunch lined up the next morning in police court there was Judge Scroggs. They felt as if they ought to treat him nicely, he being a newcomer and all of them being very familiar with the ropes; and Emmons, the class president, started explaining to him that it was all a mistake. Scroggs bit him off with a voice that sounded like a terrier snapping at a fly.
"We're here to correct these mistakes," he said. "You were all singing on the public street at one o'clock in the morning, weren't you?"
"We were trying to," said Emmons, still friendly.
"Ten days apiece," said the magistrate. "Call the next case."
If any one had removed the floor from under these Seniors and let them drop one thousand and one feet into space they couldn't have felt more shocked. Even the clerk and the desk sergeant were amazed. They tried to help explain, but the human vinegar-cruet turned around and spat the following through his clenched teeth:
"Gentlemen, I have been appointed to sit on this bench and I don't need any help. Any more objections will be in contempt of court. Sergeant, remove these young thugs and have them sent to the workhouse at once."
Maybe you don't think the college seethed when the news got out. There were the leading lights of the school, including the president of the Senior class, the chairman of the Junior promenade, two halfbacks, the pitcher on the baseball team and the president of the Y. M. C. A., all on the works for ten days, along with as choice an assortment of plain drunks and fancy resters as you could find in ninety miles of mainline railroad. The students fairly went mad and bit at the air. Even the Faculty got busy and Prexy dropped over to the police court to square it. He came out a minute later very white around the mouth. I don't know what Old Maledictions said to him, but it was a great sufficiency, I guess. He seemed as insulted as Lord Tennyson might have been if the milkman had pulled his whiskers.
There wasn't a thing to be done. The Faculty appealed to the mayor, but old Scroggs had some regular Spanish-bit hold on him in the way of a short-time note, I guess, and he washed his hands of the whole affair. Our college great men were hauled out to the works and served their time. When they got out they were sights. They weren't strong on sanitation in workhouses in those days. Even their friends shook hands with them with tongs. Think of sixteen proud monarchs of the campus making brick in striped suits, with a cross foreman who used to haul ashes from the college campus lording it over them and tracing their ancestry back through thirty generations of undesirable citizens! Nice, wasn't it? Oh, very!
That was the beginning of a sad and serious year for Siwash. For the first time Scroggs enjoyed college boys. Soaking students got to be his specialty. We did our blamedest to behave, but you can't break off the habits of generations in a week or two. Soon after the Seniors got out the Mock Turtles, a Sophomore society, capacity thirty thousand quarts, absent-mindedly tipped over a street car on their way home and were jugged for thirty days. They had to enlarge the workhouse to take care of them, and four of our best football players were retired from circulation all through October. Think what that meant! The whole college went up, just before the game with Hambletonian, and knelt on the sidewalk before Judge Scroggs' house. He set the dog on us. Said afterwards he wished the dog had been larger and hadn't had his supper. A month later four members of the glee club tried to do our favorite stunt of putting the horse in the herdic and hauling him home, and it cost them twenty-nine days—just enough to break up the club. The whole basket-ball team got thirty days because they took the bronze statue off the fountain in the public square one night, laid him on the car tracks in some old clothes, and had the ambulance force trying to resuscitate him. Nobody had ever objected to this little joke before, but it cost us the state championship and two of the team left school when they got out. Said they'd come to Siwash for a college education, not for a course of etymology in a workhouse.
It was terrible. We scarcely dared to cut out our mufflers enough to whistle to each other on the street. By spring we were desperate. We had lost the basket-ball championship. The glee club was ruined. Muggledorfer had bumped us in football—that was the year before Ole Skjarsen came to school—and college spirit at Siwash had been gummed up until it could have been successfully imitated by a four-thousand-year-old mummy. Our college meetings resembled the overflow from a funeral around the front steps. We used to shut down all the windows, say "shsh" nine times, and then write out our college yell on curl papers and burn the papers. You could have swapped Siwash off for a correspondence school without noticing any difference in the reverberations. That was Petey Simmons' first year in college—as a matter of fact, he was a Senior prep. I've told you more or less about Petey before. He was the only son of one of these country bankers who manage to get as much fun out of a half million as a New Yorker could out of a whole railroad. Petey was a little chap who had always had what he wanted and would cheerfully sit up all night thinking up new things to want. He wasn't a Freshman yet, but he could give points to all the college in the matter of explosive clothes and nifty ways of being expensive to Dad. He couldn't get along without coat-cut underwear long before we had heard of it, and you could tell by looking at his shoes just what the rest of the school would be wearing in two years. That was Petey all the way through. He was first and Father Time was nowhere, forty miles back with a busted tire.
Petey took to college life like a kid to candy and just soaked himself in college spirit. He proposed his sixty-five-dollar banjo for membership in the club and went in with it of course. He was elected yell-master before he had been in school two weeks, and if you ever want to know how much noise can come out of a comparatively small orifice you should have seen him emitting riot and pandemonium in the second half of a lively football game. Naturally, it worried Petey almost to death to see the dear old Coll. disintegrating under the Scroggs Inquisition, and he used to sit around the frat house with his head on his hands for hours, smoking his pipe, which had the largest bowl in school, and combing his convolutions for a plan. Then, along in March, he electrified the whole school by taking Martha Scroggs to the college promenade.
Martha was old Malachi's daughter. We hadn't known it, but she had been in school all that year. She was a quiet girl who was designed like a tall problem in plane geometry. While it was possible for a clock to run in the same room with her, still she was not what you might call a picnic to look at. She was the kind of girl a man would look at once and then go off and admire the scenery, even if it only consisted of a ninety-acre cornfield and a grain elevator. Martha was only about eighteen, and I never could understand how she got on to the styles of thirty-six years ago and wore them as fluently as she did.