MoboReader > Young Adult > Winning His W": A Story of Freshman Year at College"

   Chapter 1 THE OPENING TERM

Winning His W": A Story of Freshman Year at College" By Everett T. Tomlinson Characters: 13259

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"I've got a letter from Peter John."

"What's the trouble with him? He ought to have been here yesterday or the day before."

"I'm afraid Peter John never'll be on time. He doesn't seem to have taken that in his course. He'd never pass an 'exam' in punctuality."

"What does he want?"

"The poor chap begs us to meet him at the station."

"What train?"

"The two-seventeen."

"Then we've no time to waste. Is he afraid he'll be lost?"

"He's afraid, all right."

"What's he afraid of?"

"Everything and everybody, I guess. Poor chap."

Will Phelps laughed good-naturedly as he spoke, and it was evident that his sympathy for "Peter John" was genuine. His friend and room-mate, Foster Bennett, was as sympathetic as he, though his manner was more quiet and his words were fewer; their fears for their friend were evidently based upon their own personal knowledge.

For four years the three young men had been classmates in the Sterling High School, and in the preceding June had graduated from its course of study, and all three had decided to enter Winthrop College. The entrance examinations had been successfully passed, and at the time when this story opens all had been duly registered as students in the incoming class of the college.

Foster Bennett and Will Phelps were to be room-mates, and for several days previous to the September day on which the conversation already recorded had taken place they had been in the little college town, arranging their various belongings in the room in Perry Hall, one of the best of all the dormitory buildings. The first assembling of the college students was to occur on the morrow, and then the real life upon which they were about to enter was to begin.

The two boys had come to Winthrop together, the parents of both having decided that it was better to throw the young students at once upon their own resources rather than to accompany them, reserving their visits for a later time when the first novelty of the new life would be gone.

And on this September day the novelty certainly was the most prominent element in the thoughts of both boys. The task of arranging their various belongings in their new rooms had kept both so busy that thoughts of the homes they had left were of necessity somewhat rare, and the vision of the family life in which they had been so vital a part had not as yet come to take the place in their minds which it soon would occupy.

At the hotel where they had been staying there were many other boys who were in a predicament not unlike their own, but the very fact that all were alike new to the life and its surroundings had made every one somewhat diffident and the warm friendships and cordial relations that soon were to be formed were as yet not begun.

Will Phelps and Foster Bennett, however, had been so completely taken up with their own immediate tasks that they had little thought for other things. At the time when this story opens their study room was ready for callers, as Will expressed it, and the adjoining sleeping rooms were in a fair way for occupancy. Indeed, the boys planned that very night to sleep in the dormitory, and the experience was looked forward to as one which they both would enjoy.

Will Phelps, a sturdy young fellow of eighteen, of medium height, with strong body and a bright, keen expression in his dark eyes, had been the most popular of all the boys in the high school from which he had recently graduated. Not over-fond of study, he had somewhat neglected his tasks until his final year, and though he had then begun to work more seriously, his late effort had not entirely atoned for the neglect of the preceding years. An only son and not rigidly trained in his home, he had not formed the habits of study which his more serious-minded room-mate, Foster Bennett, possessed. But almost every one who met the young student was drawn to him by the fascination of his winning ways, and realized at once the latent possibilities for good or ill that were his. His success would depend much upon his surroundings, and though Will was sublimely confident in his ability to meet and master whatever opposed him, it nevertheless had been a source of deep satisfaction to his father and mother that he was to room with his classmate, Foster Bennett, for Foster was of a much more sedate disposition than his friend. Taller than Will by three inches, as fond as he of certain athletic sports, still Foster was one whom enthusiasm never carried away nor impulse controlled. When people spoke of him they often used the word "steady" to describe him. Not so quick nor so brilliant as Will, he was not able to arouse the response which his room-mate seldom failed to elicit, nor was his promise in certain ways so great. Will might do brilliant things, but of Foster it was said that 'one always knew where to find him.' Naturally, the two boys in a measure complemented each other, and their friendship was strong and lasting.

Peter John Schenck-no one ever thought of referring to him by another term than "Peter John"-the third member of the high-school class to which reference has already been made, was a boy who every morning had driven into the little city of Sterling from his country home, and in his general appearance was decidedly unlike either of his classmates. The influences of his home had been of a different character from those which had surrounded his two friends. Not that the love for him had been less, but certain elements of refinement had been lacking and his familiarity with the ways of the world was much less. Besides, his father had been in humbler circumstances, and Peter John was to room in college in Leland Hall, one of the oldest of the dormitories, where the room rent was much less than in Perry Hall and more in accord with Peter John's pocket. In school he had been made the butt of many a joke, but his fund of good nature had never rebelled and his persistence was never broken. Tall, ungainly, his trousers seemed to be in a perpetual effort to withdraw as far as possible from his boots, while his hands and wrists apparently were continually striving to evade the extremities of his coat sleeves. His face was freckled, not the ordinary freckles produced by the heat of the sun, but huge splotches that in color almost matched his auburn-tinted hair-at least his sister was prone to declare that the color of his hair was "auburn," though his less reverent schoolmates were accustomed to refer to him as a "brick-top."

But Peter John was undeterred by the guying of his mates, and when he had first declared his intention to

go to college his words had been received as a joke. But it was soon discovered that in whatever light they might be received by others, to Peter John himself they were the expression of a fixed purpose; and so it came to pass that he too had passed the entrance examinations and was duly enrolled as a member of the freshman class in Winthrop College.

When his determination had been accepted by his mates, some of them had made use of their opportunities to enlarge upon the perils that lay before him-perils for the most part from the terrible sophomores who were supposed to be going about seeking their prey with all the fierceness of a roaring lion. Peter John had listened to the marvelous tales that were poured into his ears, but so far as his expression of face was concerned, apparently they had been without effect. Nevertheless, deep in his heart Peter John had stored them all and his fear of the class above him had increased until at last just before he departed from home he had written to his friend Will Phelps informing him of his fears and begging that he and Foster would meet him at the station and protect him from the fierce onslaughts, which, he confessed, he expected would await him upon his arrival. This letter Will Phelps had found at the little post office when he made inquiries for his mail, and upon his return to his room it had provided the basis for the conversation already recorded.

"We'd better go right down to the station, then, Will," Foster had said.

"All right. Peter John will be in mortal terror if he shouldn't find us there. He probably believes the sophs will have a brass band and knives and guns and will be drawn up on the platform ready to grab him just the minute he steps off the car."

"Not quite so bad as that," laughed Foster. "But we'll have to help the poor chap out."

"Sure. Come on, then," called Will as he seized his cap and started toward the hallway.

"Hold on a minute. Wait till I lock the door."

"'Lock the door?' Not much! You mustn't do that."

"Why not?"

"It isn't polite."

"What are you talking about?" demanded Foster.

"Just what I'm telling you. Freshmen mustn't lock their doors, that's not the thing. The janitor told me not to, because the sophs will take it as a challenge to break it in. He said the college had to put sixty new locks this summer on the doors here in Perry."

"Looks as if something had happened for a fact," said Foster slowly, as he glanced at some huge cracks that were plainly visible in the panels. "Sure 't'll be safe?"

"It'll be all right. The janitor says so. Come on! Come on, or we'll be too late!"

The two boys ran swiftly down the stairway (their room was on the third floor of the dormitory) and soon were on the street which was directly in front of the building. As they walked rapidly in the direction of the station, which was a half-mile or more distant from the college buildings, the sight which greeted their eyes was one that stirred the very depths of their hearts. The very buildings themselves were impressive, some old and antiquated, dating back a century or more and venerable with age, and others new and beautiful, the recent gifts of some loyal alumni. From the huge clock in the tower of the chapel rang out the chimes which announced that the hour of two was come and gone. The beautifully kept grounds, the stately buildings, the very leaves on the huge elms that grew about the grounds were all impressive at the time to the boys to whom the entire picture was new.

In the wide street that led directly through the midst of the college buildings, were passing young men of their own age, some of whom would suddenly stop and grasp with fervor the hands of some students just returned from the long summer vacation. From the windows of the dormitories could be seen the faces of students who were leaning far out and shouting their words of greeting to friends on the street below. The September sun was warm and mellow, and as it found its way through the thick foliage it also cast fantastic shadows upon the grass that seemed to dance and leap in the very contagion of the young life that abounded on every side. The very air was almost electric and the high hills in the distance that shut in the valley and provided a framework for the handiwork of nature, lent an additional charm to which Will Phelps was unconsciously responding.

"I tell you, Foster, this is great! I'm glad I'm here!" he exclaimed.

"Are you?" replied Foster in his more subdued manner. "Well, I'm glad too."

The scene upon the platform of the station was as animated and inspiring as that about the college grounds. Groups of students were here awaiting the coming of friends, and yet their impatience was hidden by the enthusiasm of the moment. One group, consisting of twenty or more young men, particularly interested Will, for their noise and exuberance seemed to know no bounds. At last a young man, evidently a student though slightly older than the most in the group, approached them and said: "Here, you sophs! You're making too much noise. Children should be seen, not heard."

"All right, pop," responded one; and for a time the noise decreased. But it was not long before it broke forth afresh and became even more violent than before. Both Will and Foster were curiously watching the group; they almost instinctively looked upon them as natural enemies and yet were compelled to laugh at their antics.

"Here you, taxi-driver," suddenly called out one of the sophomores advancing from the midst of his classmates and approaching one of the cabs, a line of which were drawn up near the platform.

"Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Here you are! Here you are! This way!" responded a half-dozen of the taxi-drivers.

"Be still!" replied the young man solemnly to the noisy men. "Can't you see I'm engaged with John? Now, John, tell me honestly, are you free?"

"Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Take you anywhere ye say," responded the driver glibly.

"You're sure you're at liberty?"

"Yes, sir. Yes, sir."

"All right, then. I'm glad to hear it. I've a great respect for liberty. That's all I wanted to know; thank you," he added, politely bowing; then turning to his classmates he said: "I say, fellows, make it three for liberty!"

The cheers were given with a will, and then the leader added solemnly, "Let's make it three for our class, the best class that ever entered old Winthrop! Now then!"

These cheers also were loudly given, but they ceased abruptly when it was seen that the train, for whose coming they had been waiting, was now approaching.

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