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The Land of Joy written by Ralph Henry Barbour who was an American novelist,. his book was published in 1903. And now republish in ebook format. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book.
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The Land of Joy
Ralph Henry Barbour
John North unlocked the door and threw it open. The study was in semi-darkness and filled with the accumulated heat and fust of the summer. Ghostlike objects took shape before him and resolved themselves into chairs and couches and tables draped with sheets or, as in the case of the low book-shelves, hidden beneath yellowing folds of newspapers. The windows were closed and the shades drawn. At the side casements the afternoon sunlight made hot, buff oblongs on the curtains.
He crossed the room impatiently, overturning on the way a waste-basket and sending its contents—old books, battered golf-balls, brass curtain-rings, a broken meerschaum pipe, crumpled letters and invitations dating back to class day—rolling over the rug and beneath the big table. With mutterings of disgust he sent the front windows crashing upward, letting in a rush of fresher air, moist from the newly sprinkled pavement below. At the side casements, however, he drew down the shades again, for Dunster Street was as full of heat and glare as an Arizona cañon.
Laying aside coat and vest, he stretched his arms luxuriously, and, thrusting big, brown hands into trousers pockets, looked disconsolately from a window. Cambridge was sweltering. Although it was late September summer had returned in the night, unexpected and unwelcome, and had wrapped the city in a smothering blanket of heat and humidity. The square was a broad desert of arid, shimmering, sun-smitten pavement that radiated heat like the bed-plate of a furnace. The trees across the way looked wilted, dusty and discouraged. The Yard, which he could glimpse here and there around the corners of the buildings, appeared cool and inviting, but instead of bringing comfort, only increased his longing for the breezy Adirondack lake which he had left the day before. The cumbersome crimson cars buzzed to and fro with much clanging of bell and gong, interspersed with impatient shrillings from the whistle of the starter in front of the waiting station. From the outbound cars men with suit cases slid dejectedly to the pavement and wandered away toward all points of the compass, seeking their rooms. College would begin again on the morrow.
John’s thoughts went back to the day three years before when from this very window he had watched, as he was watching now, the scene beneath. Then he had been filled with the keenest interest, even excitement; had been impatient for the morrow and the real commencement of his college life. His mind had been charged with thoughts of the great things he was going to do. Well, that had been three years ago, he reflected; to-day his thoughts were somewhat soberer. In the three years he had seen many illusions fade and had stored by a certain amount of practical common sense. As for the great things, some few of them had come to pass; unfortunately, seen in retrospect they were shrunken out of all similitude to the glorious subjects of his early dreams.
It must not be thought, however, that disillusionment had soured him. At twenty-four, given a sane mind and a healthy body, one can bear with equanimity more disenchantment than had fallen to the lot of John North. And John, being the possessor of twenty-four years, sanity and health, dismissed memories of the olden visions with a sigh, shrugged his very broad shoulders and looked about for a pipe.
It was necessary to uncover most of the furniture before the pipe was found. And then he remembered that his tobacco pouch was in his kit-bag, that his kit-bag was outside the door, and that the door was twenty feet away. So after a moment of hesitation he stuck the empty pipe between his teeth and returned to his contemplation of the world outside.
“I wish Davy would come,” he muttered.
A tall youth in a torn straw hat encircled by a faded orange-and-black ribbon came out of the hardware store beneath and started hurriedly across the square. John leaned out over the sill.
“Ay-y-y-y, Larry!” he called.
The other turned and retraced his steps.
“Hello, Johnnie! When’d you get back?”
“Half-hour ago. Come up.”
“Can’t.” Laurence Baker removed the straw hat and, holding it by its broken rim, fanned his perspiring face. “I’m frightfully busy. My kid brother’s come up from Exeter and I’m helping him fix his room; he’s got a joint in Thayer. I’ve been running errands for the little brute all day. It’s carpet tacks this time, and a roll of picture wire.” He held up his purchases wearily for the other’s inspection. John grinned.
“Poor old Larry!” he said, sympathetically. “You’ll have to settle down now and behave yourself; younger brothers, especially Freshies, are the very deuce for looking after you.”
“You talk as though you had slathers of ’em,” retorted Larry.
“No, thank heaven, I’m no one’s guardian. But I know what’s in store for you, poor devil! By the way, I’ve got a couple of seats for the Hollis Street to-night; will you?”
Larry shook his head disconsolately.
“Wish I could, but—er—I promised Chester I’d take him to call on some folks in town.” John grinned again.
“Well, don’t let me interfere with your duties, Larry,” he said, shaking his head gravely.
“Shut up! Has Davy got back?”
“No; the beggar wrote me that he was coming to-day, but he hasn’t shown up. I daresay he’s fallen asleep and gone on to Watertown or Waverly, or some other of those places you read about.”
“Wouldn’t be a bit surprised,” laughed the other. “When’s the table going to start?”
“Oh, Monday, I guess. I’m going around there for dinner to-night. Coming?”
“Don’t think so. We’ll probably eat in town. Can’t you come along?”
“Maybe; if Davy doesn’t show up meanwhile.”
“All right; meet us at the Touraine at seven. If you’re not there by a quarter after——”
“Don’t wait. It’ll mean that Davy has woke up in time to get back here. So long, Larry.”
The other waved the package in his hand, replaced his hat and hurried across the street, finally disappearing around the corner of Gray’s. John looked after him with a broad smile.
“Fancy Larry in the rôle of mentor to the young! Well——”
He stretched his arms over his head again, turned and surveyed the room. Recollecting his bag, he went to the door for it and returning caught sight of several letters on the floor. He gathered them up and went back to the window. Two of them proved to be circulars, one was a bill, a third was a note from the head football coach asking John to call on him, and the fourth bore the inscription,
“Return after five days to Corliss & Groom, Washington, D. C.”
John’s face betrayed curiosity as he opened this. Leaning against the casement he read it through. Curiosity gave place to surprise, surprise to alarm, alarm to consternation. He sucked hard at the empty pipe, stared blankly into the street and reread the letter. The writer was an old friend of his father and, to a lesser degree, of himself; a Harvard graduate of some twenty years ago, and now a successful lawyer in Washington. The portions of the letter responsible for John’s changes of expression were these:
“... And so I felt certain that in promising your services to the extent indicated I was not overstepping the bounds of friendship. The family were deeply grateful; in fact, I am not sure that at the last Mrs. Ryerson would have consented to allow Phillip to go to Cambridge had it not been for the promise I made in your behalf. Do not imagine that the boy is deficient in sense; but, naturally enough, his mother hated to have him leave her for so long just at present. The father died in January last. Phillip has always manifested ability to get his share of things; he does not, I think, err on the side of timidity; in fact, such slight troubles as have molested him thus far have been due to a certain inherited love of daring. His father, my lifelong friend, was the embodiment of honour and fearlessness; but his courage, unfortunately, was of the reckless sort, and was, indirectly at least, accountable for his death. The quarrel, as I have said, was of a most trifling nature and should never have become subject for a duel. But Phillip—the present Phil’s father, you understand—was but thirty at the time and as finicky of his honour as a Crusader. The wound which he received never entirely healed and last winter brought on the illness which caused his death.
“... But I will write no more of the boy’s character. Were you a Virginian I should simply say ‘He is a Loudoun County Ryerson,’ and you would understand. However, you will see for yourself, for I am accepting it as settled that you will look him up and be of such service as you can if only for our friendship’s sake. I fear the boy will have rather a hard row to hoe at first. He has always had everything in reason that he has desired, though I believe his demands have never been exorbitant. It was a surprise to the family whenthe condition of affairs was revealed after Phillip’s death. I, however, who was in his confidence, knew all along how things were going. He was never overfond of the humdrum, stay-at-home life of the planter, and the mystery is how he managed to keep possession of his property as long as he did. Elaine is a fine place of some sixteen hundred acres, and there is no doubt but that after the bulk of it is disposed of the family will be in very comfortable circumstances.
“Mrs. Ryerson has been in poor health for many years, and she is naturally averse to selling any of the estate while she lives. Margaret, however, who possesses far more practicality than a Ryerson has any right to, has taken the conduct of affairs into her own hands, and I have instructions to sell Elaine at the first opportunity. The residence and home farm—about one hundred acres in all—are exempted. The fact that the place is to be disposed of is being kept from Phil, so you had best not mention it. He has been told only enough of the true state of affairs to prevent him from running into extravagances. It is the desire of his mother and sister that he shall not be hampered by monetary troubles more than absolutely necessary....
“... I have written at greater length than was perhaps necessary. But I want you to take an interest in the boy. I have a feeling that you will be of great service to him. I imagine that college life is much what it was twenty years ago, and my own experience tells me that the friendship of an older and more thoughtful man is of immense value to a freshman....
“... Phillip is careless, perhaps high-spirited, and after the free and unconstrained life he has led at home, college life will, I fear, seem narrow and irksome. Every youngster must have his fling, but there are different ways of flinging. And it’s there that you can be of use to Phil and make me your debtor. He’s a good deal like a two-year-old turned out to pasture where the fences aren’t strong; it’s dollars to dimes he’ll try to break through into the next field. But a mild hand on the halter now and then may save him a broken shank or a bad wire-cut. And, by the way, John, if he should get damaged over the fences I’m the one to inform, not the family.
“I am sorry to learn that your father’s health remains poor. I had a letter from him in July, I think, written at Guernsey. I had hoped that his travels would benefit him. It must be very hard on your mother. My kindest regards to both when next you write. Pray remember that the latchstring is always outside when you get within striking distance of Washington. My wife asks to be remembered to you, and says that the south room, with the view that you liked so much, is still vacant and always at your service. Let me hear from you in answer to this tiresome letter, and meanwhile accept my thanks for what I have pledged you to do.
“George Herman Corliss.”
After the second reading John let fall the letter and stared perplexedly out across the square. Gradually a smile crept over his face, and finally he chuckled ruefully.
“Great Scott!” he muttered. “And I was horseing Larry about his kid brother! Why, hang it, his job is a sinecure compared with mine. If a brother doesn’t behave himself all you have to do is to break his silly little head. But here am I saddled with the responsibility of an absolute stranger, a chap whose name I never even heard until to-day! I can’t punch his nose if he misbehaves; he would probably resent it, coming from an entire stranger; all I can do is to politely request him to be good. And meanwhile his family and Corliss will be quite satisfied that the precious youth is being gently but firmly conducted along the path of virtue and sobriety and won’t give a thought to the difficulties of the situation.
“And if—what’s the young idiot’s name?—if Phillip should blow up Massachusetts with a cannon-cracker some dark night, or assault a proctor, my reputation’s blasted. I shall lose my position and be held up to disgrace forevermore. I’m not certain that the Virginia legislature wouldn’t pass a law making the mention of my name a misdemeanor. And Corliss would tell Mrs. Corliss that he was disappointed in me—confound his cheek! And Margaret—I wonder, now, what Margaret’s like? Corliss says she’s practical. That’s not promising. Nothing is more irritating than a practical woman. But maybe she isn’t. Anyhow, I’d be sorry to displease Margaret. And so I suppose I’ll have to take over the commission.”
He crossed the room to his bag and filled his pipe from a leather pouch. When it was drawing well he drew a chair up to the window and settled himself in it, his heels on the sill. The tobacco brought comfort.
“I wish Davy was here. He’s the finest person to consult when you’re in difficulties that I know. He simply smiles in his fatuous way or else scowls weirdly under the impression that he’s looking wise, and goes to sleep. And you’ve unburdened your mind and haven’t reburdened it with a lot of advice that you wouldn’t think of following. And the present quandary will tickle Davy into a month’s slumber! Well, let’s face it. Am I or am I not to become the guardian angel of Mr. Phillip Scott Ryerson, of Elaine, Melville Court House, County of Loudoun, State of Virginia?” He tossed the letter from him. “Why, confound it, I haven’t any choice! Corliss pledges me first and asks my consent afterward! ‘We have apple pie; what kind of pie’ll you have?’ Heaven protect us from the claims of friendship!”
“But old George must be pretty well worked up over the matter to write all that rot. You’d think it was his own son he is begging me to care for! And of course I’ve got to do it. He knew I would. He’s a good old idiot, is Grovel, and I suppose if he’d asked me to wheel little Phillip up and down the avenue every day in a perambulator I’d have wired him back ‘Whatever you say,’ and done it.”
“Seriously, though, my boy, it’s no light job they’ve got you into. From what Corliss says—or, rather, from what he doesn’t say—it is pretty evident that little Phillip is a holy terror. He is undoubtedly thoroughly spoiled, and comes here with the sole intention of, as Corliss so delicately puts it, breaking through into the next field. Old George is getting frightfully horsey, by the way! And I am to follow him about, smiling fatuously like an indulgent parent, murmuring ‘Now don’t do that, Phillip!’ or ‘No, no, dear; mind Uncle John!’”
He looked at his watch and found it was nearly four o’clock. With a sudden determination to hunt up his charge and learn the worst at once, he drew himself regretfully from the chair and rescued the letter from the floor. Donning his jacket, he slipped letter and tobacco pouch into his pocket.
“I’ll get this dive fixed up and dusted before dinner if I can find any one about,” he murmured. “It looks like a morgue.”
The sound of heavy footsteps in the corridor brought a grin to his face. Rushing to the door, he threw himself violently into the arms of a large and perspiring man. A suit case crashed to the floor.
“Oh, Davy!” he sobbed, “I’m so glad you’ve come! I’ve wanted you so, Davy, I’ve wanted you so! Hold me tighter, Davy; they’ve gone and made me a foster-mother!”
David Meadowcamp removed John’s clinging embrace, placed his suit case on the couch and sat down beside it, smiling jovially the while.
“Eh?” he said.
He was a massive, large-boned, broad-faced man, two years John’s senior. Outwardly he was good-natured, sleepy, awkward, with a shock of jet black hair that was forever falling over his forehead and giving him the unkempt look of one just out of bed, an appearance aided by his manner of attire. Good-natured he was, and sleepy; his capacity for slumber seemed almost abnormal; his awkwardness was more apparent than real, for he had been a star left tackle on the ’Varsity football team during his last two years in college. Persons who judged him by his looks were usually mistaken in their estimate of the quantity and quality of his brains. Despite his likeness to a good-humoured dullard, he possessed an assimilative ability that was phenomenal, and had secured his degree in three years. He was now taking a post-graduate course. John declared it was because he was too lazy to pack his trunk and go home. It was generally understood that he was preparing himself to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was the president of a New York bank, and who, so rumour had it, was unable to count his millions without the aid of all his fingers and toes. David and John had been roommates from their freshman year, and in all that time had never had but one real quarrel; and even that, as John had pointed out aggrievedly after it was over, had been too one-sided to be interesting. For David had drowsed through most of it and had only consented to display real concern when John, goaded to madness by the other’s indifference, had thrown a pair of military brushes at him. Thereupon David had arisen in his might and, depositing the struggling opponent on the bedroom floor, had drawn the mattress over him and gone to sleep on top.
David removed his clothing by easy stages while John told his troubles. His grin grew and broadened as the tale progressed. At the end he dropped the last of his attire, stretched his six feet of nakedness and disappeared into the bathroom. John howled and beat upon the door.
“Come out, you hard-hearted brute! Come out and I’ll—I’ll lick you!”
There was no sound from beyond the locked portal but the rushing of water from the taps.
“Coward!” taunted John.
The taps were turned off and there followed an awesome splash. Then it rained water for a moment beyond the door; afterward there was a steady churning sound as from the wheel of a Sound steamer. John tried cajolery.
“Davy! Dear Davy! Booful Davy!”
“Go ’way,” yelled the bather.
“Please don’t be angry, Davy! Tell me, Davy, what shall I do?”
“Go see him.”
“Oh ... would you?”
“Will you come along?”
There was a snort of derision from the bathroom.
“You might, you know, Davy.”
“But your presence would be so—so soothing and soporific, Davy! Won’t you?”
“All right then, don’t, you big selfish brute!” He moved away from the door and his eyes fell on David’s clothing scattered generously over the study. Picking up the coat he abstracted a bill-roll from a pocket and helped himself to a five-dollar note. Then he hid the coat under the couch and went back to the bathroom door.
“Little Phillip may act naughty, Davy, and so I’ve borrowed a fiver from you to buy him candy.”
“Better get him a bottle,” gurgled David.
“Farewell, Davy. I’ll see you later. I’ve got tickets for the Hollis. So don’t run away.”
On the street John found that the unseasonable heat had moderated somewhat. As he turned into Boylston Street a faint breeze, redolent of the marshes, blew into his face and caused him to tilt his hat away from his sunburned forehead. In front of the post-office he was hailed by an acquaintance, one Broom, a member of the Eleven.
“I hear you’re going to help coach this fall, North?”
“First I’ve heard of it,” answered John. “Though I found a note in my mail that rather bears out your statement, Pete. But I don’t know whether I’ll have time for it.”
“Rot, my boy, rot! It doesn’t require time; any old fool can coach a football team.”
“On the principle that it takes a fool to teach a fool, eh?”
“Sure. Where are you going? Come on ’round to the drug store and drink cooling draughts.”
John groaned and shook his head.
“Can’t, Pete. I’m a foster-mother.”
“You’re an idiot, you mean. Come around to the hovel soon.”
John brought forth the fateful letter and made sure of the address he was seeking. At least, he thought, it had the merit of accessibility, for it was just around the corner. It proved to be an old-fashioned residence, two stories and a half in height, with a porch running across the front. It was painted a peculiarly depressing shade of gray, but for all that, and despite the fact that the front door opened almost from the sidewalk, it was homelike and even attractive; and was plainly a house with a history. Its dignity was somewhat marred by two placards in the front windows advertising “Student Rooms to Let” and “Table Board.” It faced a little square of comforting trees, grass and shrubbery, and from the porch a bit of the river could be seen. An express wagon piled high with trunks stood at the curb. John ascended the steps and rang the bell. The front door was broad and substantial and was flanked by sidelights, while a dusty fanlight above hinted at the splendour of olden days.
“I wonder,” mused John, “just which Revolutionary general made his headquarters here. I don’t see any tablet; very careless of the Historical Society.”
The maid who answered his ring thought that Mr. Ryerson was in because she had sent an expressman up with a trunk a few minutes before. The room, she directed, was the second-story-front on the left. John thanked her and started up the narrow staircase with its queer slim mahogany hand-rail. Half-way up he became aware of quick, heavy tramping from the direction of the room he was seeking. He paused and listened. Bang—bang!Tramp—tramp! Thud—thud! Wonderingly he went on, turned and approached the door. From beyond came the unmistakable scuffling and tramping of bodies, the panting of persons apparently engaged in severe physical exertion, and through it all the plaintive whining of a dog. Suddenly a chair crashed to the floor. The noise ceased.
“Had enough?” asked a high, boyish voice.
“No! You?” answered a deeper one.
“Come on then!”
The noise began again, while the dog, apparently in a bedroom or closet beyond, set up a dismal howl. John knocked loudly.
“Keep out!” called a shrill voice somewhat breathlessly.
“Is Mr. Ryerson in?”
“No.” Then, in lower tones: “Ah, would you! Take that!”
“He is in,” reflected John, “and he’s having a boxing bout with some one and doesn’t want to be disturbed. But, the Lord knows, if I don’t see him this time I’ll never have the courage to try again. And so——” He tried the door. It was unlocked and he pushed it open and entered. Then he stood stock still and stared in surprise.
In the middle of the room, a large, oblong apartment traversed overhead by beams painted the same hue as the outside of the house, and lighted by three large windows in deep embrasures, stood two persons. Each had discarded coat and vest, but was, nevertheless, bathed in perspiration. One whose Irish features and soiled appearance proclaimed him the expressman, presented a sadly disfigured countenance. He was breathing with difficulty and from his nose crimson drops spattered onto the bosom of his dirty checked shirt. One eye was puffed and a short gash over the cheek bone bled freely. These disfigurations, with an ugly scowl, rendered him extremely unattractive. John’s gaze swept past him to the person beyond.
A tall, rather slim youth of nineteen confronted him. His eyes, which at the moment were wide open with surprise and annoyance, and his hair, worn somewhat long about the ears and at the back of the neck, were darkly brown. His face was oval, lean, with cheek bones well in sight; the complexion was rather sallow, but now the cheeks were disked with red. The nose was straight, the mouth full-lipped, the general expression of the face fearless, ardent and a trifle arrogant. The carriage was erect and easy and the width of hip and thigh told of long acquaintance with the saddle. So far he appeared to have escaped punishment.
“That,” quoth John to himself, “is little Phil.”
“Well, sir?” The slim youth dropped his hands from their belligerent attitude and faced John, issuing the challenge with ill-concealed annoyance.
“You’re Mr. Phillip Ryerson, I fancy?” said John.
“Yes, sir; what then?”
“Why, I must apologize for interrupting you. My name——”
“I reckon you’re a proctor,” interrupted the other brusquely. “I’m very busy just at present, and so, if there’s anything more I can do for you, please tell me. If not——” He glanced toward the door. The expressman shuffled uneasily and looked tentatively at his coat and vest. John sank onto a trunk and allowed an appreciative smile to creep into his face. Really, little Phillip wasn’t so bad! “I’m glad he doesn’t mistake me for the Dean,” he thought, “or he would be throwing me out the window!
“Why, there is something more you can do for me,” he said aloud, “but it can wait. Pray don’t let my presence interfere with the meeting; I have always taken great interest in the manly art. Perhaps I can hold the watch for you?”
The slim youth’s eyes sparkled dangerously and the crimson disks spread.
“Perhaps you would care to take the place of this—ah—gentleman, sir?” he asked with elaborate courtesy. John applauded silently. But,
“No,” he said, with a regretful shake of his head, “unfortunately I can’t accept your kind invitation. Some other time, perhaps.”
“But if I insist that you either do so or leave my room?” continued the other, his anger getting the better of his polite tones. John shrugged his shoulders. The expressman was getting into his coat, growling loudly.
“I shall get out,” John replied frankly, smiling into the boy’s angry face. “But before that,” he went on, “let us have a few minutes of conversation. Afterward, if you still persist, I will leave without being dropped from the window.” The other, suddenly realizing that John was at least fifty pounds heavier and very much stronger, scented sarcasm and grew more incensed.
“I can’t imagine what you may have to say, sir, but I—” he pronounced it Ah—“assure you that I have no desire to hear a word of it. You will oblige me by quitting my room.”
“Say,” interrupted the expressman, “do I get paid for that trunk or don’t I?”
“Yes, you do,” answered his late adversary. “You get fifty cents for bringing it out from Boston, but you don’t get anything for toting it upstairs.”
“All right, give me the fifty. Gee, I’ve wasted a quarter of an hour here now; I could have made another fifty in that time.”
“You acknowledge, then, do you, that you had no right to ask an extra fee for bringing it upstairs?”
“Aw, what yer givin’ us? I ain’t askin’ for it, am I?” He turned to John and with difficulty winked his eye slyly. “I guess I got a quarter’s worth, eh?”
“You look as though you had,” replied John gravely.
“You can go now,” said the host.
“Aw, is that so?” growled the expressman.
“And here’s your money.” He handed the other a crisp dollar bill.
“What’s to keep me from pocketin’ the whole thing?” asked the expressman.
“Nothing; that’s what you’re to do. I’m giving you fifty cents for the trunk and fifty cents for a tip.” The expressman opened his eyes until they threatened to fall from his head.
“Well, I’ll be darned!” he gasped. “Say, why couldn’t you give me the quarter I asked for in the first place?”
“Because I didn’t please to,” was the calm response. “Your demand was unjust.”
“Oh, you’re a wonder!” sighed the other hopelessly. “But, say, any time you want to go on with this, just let me know. You got the best of it to-day, but then you haven’t been wrestling with trunks since seven o’clock. Next time it might be different, eh?”
There was no answer and the expressman pocketed his money, winked good-naturedly at John and went out.
“Good-by, sonny,” he called from the hall. John smiled and Phillip Ryerson, scowling haughtily at him from the centre of the room, saw it and clenched his hands.
“Now, sir, if you’ll be so kind as to follow!” he said in a high, arrogant voice. John’s temper suddenly gave way and he arose from the trunk. He moved slowly across the apartment until he was facing his host.
“Look here, you are Ryerson, aren’t you—Phillip Ryerson, of Something-or-other Court House, What-you-call-it County, State of Virginia?”
“Yes.” Phillip’s curiosity for a moment got the best of his wrath. “How do you know so much about me?” he asked suspiciously.
“Oh, what does it matter?” answered John wearily. “But since you are Ryerson, allow me to tell you that you’re a very fresh little boy and ought to have a thundering good spanking. Good-afternoon.”
Phillip watched him in silence until he had reached the door; he was very angry, deeply insulted, but he was also rather uneasy. His visitor, now that he observed him more closely, did not look quite like an impertinent proctor. He wondered if he had not been a bit ill-mannered and hasty. After all, if he wanted people to keep out of his room he should have locked the door. He took a step forward, his lips shaping a hurried apology. But the visitor passed into the hall, and after a moment of hesitation Phillip shrugged his shoulders.
“Let him go, hang him!” he muttered.
John found David at the dinner table. The former’s face still expressed a measure of exasperation as he sank into a chair at his friend’s side. David grinned.
“How did you find the boy, Johnnie?” he asked.
John flirted his napkin open and eyed his thick soup with disfavour before he answered.
“Well, Davy,” he said finally, “I think he’ll do. I found him beating an expressman to jelly because the latter wanted to overcharge him. He seems a peculiarly gentle, amiable youth, and I think he will get on very nicely without our tender care, Davy.”
“I should have said mine. And I believe I neglected to add that later on he ordered me out of his room and that I went.”
David chuckled loudly.
“The sweet child!” he exclaimed. “Johnnie, I can see that you are destined to spend a busy, useful and not uninteresting year.”
“Not I,” answered John. “I shan’t go near the little fool again. And Corliss can look somewhere else for a nurse for the precious kid.”
But David shook his head solemnly.
“That won’t do, Johnnie. You can’t shift responsibilities like that; you’ve got a duty to perform, my boy, and I shall see that you attend to it. You must make allowances for the poor child’s fiery Southern nature, and——”
“Fiery Southern fiddlesticks! Eat your dinner, man; we’re going in to the theatre.”
And they went. And David slept peacefully through three acts of a Pinero comedy and enjoyed it hugely.
The bell on Harvard Hall clanged imperatively and a new college year began. The leaves in the Yard rustled tremulously under the touch of a cool breeze out of the east, and here and there one fluttered downward, dropping from branch to branch lightly, lingeringly, as though loath to own its life at an end. Summer, which had loitered overlate in New England, had stolen southward in the night and to-day autumn was firmly enthroned. There was a crispness in the air that bade the blood run swifter; feet that yesterday had dragged themselves wearily over the hot pavements to-day trod the walks blithely; overhead the sky showed a different blue, more distant and ethereal. It was good to be alive.
Phillip Ryerson, hurrying across the yard to his first recitation, felt the invigoration of the morning. Yesterday had been a day of trials and vexations; to-day he experienced a pleasurable excitement and a comforting faith in his ability to hold his own in this new little world into which, by means of certain nightmarish examinations the mere recollection of which made him shudder, he had fought his way. He had lived his life out-of-doors and was susceptible to Nature’s every mood. To-day he was laughing brightly and Phillip’s heart echoed the laughter. Under one far-shading tree he paused, unaware of the curious or amused glances thrown upon him by passers, and looked upward into the green, sun-flecked gloom of interlacing branches and sniffed the delicate odour exhaled therefrom. Suddenly a faint, almost imperceptible stir far up the grayish trunk caught his senses. He watched and presently two little eyes twinkled down at him inquiringly. He uttered a softly shrill whistle and in response there was an excited chattering in the branches and a sleek squirrel descended nimbly, swaying a thick, handsome tail, until he clung head-downward a foot or two out of reach.
“Hello, Mister Gray Squirrel,” said Phillip softly. “Come on down. Can’t you see I haven’t got a gun? Anyway, I reckon you wouldn’t know a gun if you saw it, would you?”
The squirrel chattered volubly, his bright eyes twinkling hither and thither and his little nose working anxiously.
“Why, you little rascal,” cried Phillip, “you’re asking for breakfast. I’m mighty sorry, but I don’t reckon I’ve got anything you’ll care about. Let’s see.” He searched his pockets carefully, the squirrel edging a few inches nearer and watching him intently. But, save for a few crumbs of tobacco, Phillip’s pockets contained nothing that had even the appearance of edibles. He shook his head.
“Not a thing,” he said aloud. “But you wait until next time and I’ll bring you some nuts.” The squirrel seemed to understand, for he squeaked disappointedly and turned tail. Footsteps crossed the grass and Phillip turned.
“I guess he’ll eat peanuts all right.”
A fellow of about Phillip’s age approached. He was a sunny-haired, blue-eyed youth, and Phillip thought he had never seen one cleaner or more wholesome. He smiled genially and held out three or four peanuts.
“Let’s try these on him,” he said. “Here, Sport!”
The squirrel looked doubtfully for an instant at the newcomer, and then his eyes fell on the delicacies and he scrambled down onto the grass and approached bravely.
“Some of them will eat out of your hand,” said the yellow-haired youth. “Come and get them if you want them.”
The squirrel hesitated a moment at arm’s length and then ran forward and seized the nut. Retiring to the foot of the tree, he ate it hurriedly, apparently fearful that the others would escape him if he lingered overlong at the first.
“Tame, aren’t they?” said Phillip.
“Yes. There are lots of them here in the Yard. There’s one chap—he has part of his tail chewed off, so I know him—came up to my window-ledge yesterday and just begged. So I got some peanuts for him. But he hasn’t been around yet to-day, though I saw him in a tree a minute ago. Come on, Sport; here’s another. I can’t wait here all day, you know.”
The invitation was readily accepted and, tossing the rest of the nuts onto the grass, the youth turned away. Phillip followed and the two walked along together, hurrying a little, since the bell had ceased its summons.
“I guess this isn’t your first year?” said the blue-eyed fellow questioningly.
“It is, though,” answered Phillip.
“Really? I thought——” He hesitated and then turned a laughing face to the other. “I guess I won’t say it.”
“Go ahead,” begged Phillip. “I can’t see how you could have taken me for an old stager.”
“Well, you looked so kind of don’t-give-a-hang, standing under the tree there, that I thought you were probably a soph. Hope you won’t take that as an insult.”
“No indeed; why should I? I rather wish I was a sophomore, I reckon.”
“Phew! That’s regular treason! Don’t you know that a freshman holds a soph. in the deepest contempt?”
“No, I didn’t know it. Why?”
“Oh—well, just because, I guess. It’s—it’s reciprocal. You have to; it’s part of the game.”
“Oh.” Phillip looked puzzled. They had reached the steps of the recitation hall. “Well, I’m going in here,” he said, hesitatingly.
“So’m I,” answered his new acquaintance. “And say, afterward come over to my room in Thayer with me and we’ll see if we can’t find that other squirrel, eh?”
“Thanks,” answered Phillip; “I’ll look for you.”
“Oh, come on; we’ll get seats together.”
But they didn’t, and so, for a time, Phillip lost sight of the other. But during the next half-hour his thoughts were busy with him. It did not seem extraordinary to him that the blue-eyed youth should have made overtures of friendship as he had. In Virginia one spoke to strangers on the road, and common courtesy demanded a certain disregard of conventionalities. Later, however, when Phillip had seen more of college life and customs, he marveled greatly. Now he wondered what the white E embroidered on the other’s crimson cap meant, and resolved to purchase a cap just like it at once. Also, the stunning shirt of white and green and pink stripes worn by his new acquaintance made him dissatisfied with his own stiff-bosomed affair; and he acknowledged the superiority, from the standpoint of picturesqueness, of knickerbockers and golf stockings over long trousers. He wondered how much such articles of apparel cost and what would be left to him of his present capital after he had made such purchases as now seemed necessary.
He found the crimson cap waiting for him on the steps when he filed out and he ranged his own straw hat beside it. Together the two made their way past University to the farther end of Thayer. Here Phillip was guided into a corner study on the first floor.
On the door a clean, new card was tacked and Phillip read the inscription as he passed:
“Mr. Chester M. Baker.”
He made a mental note to order some like it and throw away those he had, on which his name was engraved in a flowing script which he had heretofore thought very beautiful, but which he now surmised to be sadly out of style.
The study in which Phillip found himself was homelike and well furnished, but in no way remarkable. The pictures were few and good; the rugs and upholsterings were bright and aggressively new; only the cushions in the window-seat and the half-hundred books showed the dignity of usage. But Phillip thought it a very nice room, with its view of greensward and swaying branches through the open windows, and regretted that he had not secured quarters in the Yard. His host tossed the crimson cap onto the table.
“Sit down,” he said. “By the way, you haven’t any recitation for this hour, have you?”
Phillip shook his head, and his host went on:
“All right; let’s see if we can find Raggles.”
“Raggles?” questioned Phillip.
“Yes, the squirrel; I call him Raggles because his tail is all frayed out. And talking of names, mine’s Baker.”
“And mine’s Ryerson,” answered Phillip.
“Now we know who we are,” said Baker. He went to the window and threw some peanuts onto the gravel outside. Phillip followed and, peering over the other’s shoulder, waited for the squirrel to appear. But, although they offered every inducement, Raggles failed to present himself, and they made themselves comfortable on the window-seat and ate the peanuts themselves.
“Would you mind telling me what this E stands for?” asked Phillip, pointing to one of the cushions. “I saw it on your cap, you know.” Baker looked surprised.
“Why, Exeter,” he answered.
“Oh,” said Phillip. “That’s in New Hampshire, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” The host was plainly bewildered at the other’s ignorance. “Where did you prepare?” he asked.
Phillip named a small academy near Richmond, and Baker nodded his head politely.
“You live in Virginia?” he asked.
“Yes, at Melville Court House. It’s about fifty miles from Alexandria. This is the first time I have been so far north, except last spring when I came up for exams.”
“I knew you were a Southerner,” smiled Baker. “You say ‘Ah’ for I and ‘aboot’ for about. It’s great; I wish I could do it. I talk through my silly nose, like all Yankees.”
“I think you talk very nicely,” said Phillip. “I suppose I do pronounce things differently from folks up North here. Do you live in Boston?”
“Save us!” cried Baker. “No, I’m from Rutland, Vermont. When you meet a real, dyed-in-the-wool Bostonian you’ll see the difference. Do you know any folks in town?”
“No. I haven’t any acquaintances at all hereabouts except my adviser. You’re the first one,” he added with a smile.
“Really?” cried Baker. “Well, I know stacks of fellows and I’ll introduce you ’round. My chum’s a chap named Bassett. You’ll like Guy; he’s awfully jolly. We’ll have lots of fun. Only——” his face fell—“only the trouble is that Laurence is here.”
“Yes, he’s my big brother; a senior. That makes it awkward, you see, because he’ll think it’s his plaguey duty to keep watch on me. I wanted to go to Yale for that reason, but dad thought it would be better if I came here so that Laurence could guide my trembling footsteps during my first year in the midst of college temptations.” He grinned. “Dad thinks Laurence is a wonder. But if he gets too obnoxious I’ll threaten to tell some of the things I know about him.”
“I should think it would be rather nice to have a brother in college,” said Phillip. “I wish I had.”
“If you had you’d wish you hadn’t. Where do you room?”
Phillip told him.
“I didn’t try for a room in the Yard,” he explained, “because my father went here and he lived outside. We used to talk about it before—before he died, and we decided that I was to get a place outside, too. I reckon if it hadn’t been that father went here I’d have gone to the University.”
“The University?” queried Baker.
“University of Virginia. But father always wanted that I should go to Harvard. Of course, I wished to please him, but if I’d had my choice I’d have gone to the University. You see, I’d have known more fellows there. Up here I only know you and a senior; and I haven’t met him yet.”
Baker looked mystified and Phillip went on.
“Father had a friend in Washington, and when he learned that I was coming up here he wrote to a friend of his, a senior here, and asked him to call on me. But I haven’t seen him yet.”
“What’s his name?”
“North; John North. Do you know him?”
“No, I’ve never met him yet,” answered Baker, “but Laurence is going to take me ’round to see him to-night, I think. But if John North’s your friend, you’ll get on finely. He knows everybody worth knowing and is a regular high muckamuck himself. You’re in luck.”
“Am I? I thought likely he’d call last night, but he didn’t.”
“Well, I guess he’s pretty busy. I hear he’s going to be assistant football coach this fall; you know he’s played for the last three years on the ’Varsity.”
“I think I’d like to play football,” said Phillip.
“I daresay,” laughed Baker. “So’d I. I’d like to play quarter on the ’Varsity, but I don’t think I shall.”
“Why, is it hard to get on the team?”
“It’s like pulling teeth unless you’re an A 1 player. I’m going to try for the Freshman Eleven; you’d better, too. Then, if you make that and get on all right, you’ll stand a show for the ’Varsity next fall. Have you played much?”
“No, I’ve never played at all.”
“Oh; well, you’ll find it hard at first,” said Baker. “Candidates for the Freshman team are called for to-morrow afternoon. If you like, Guy and I’ll call for you on our way over to the field.”
“Thank you; I wish you would,” replied Phillip. “What must I wear?”
“Oh, any old sweater and a pair of moleskins.”
“I’ll have to get some, I reckon.”
“You can get them at the Coöperative Society, if you don’t want to go into town. What courses are you taking?”
For the next quarter of an hour the talk ranged over the subject of studies, and Phillip discovered, on the authority of his host, that he had made several frightful mistakes in his choice of courses, and was quite cast down until Baker assured him that it didn’t matter anyhow, because no one studied much in his freshman year. Phillip expressed surprise, and Baker explained that a fellow had too much to do to find time for grinding.
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