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   Chapter 2 PETER JOHN'S ARRIVAL

Winning His W": A Story of Freshman Year at College" By Everett T. Tomlinson Characters: 12457

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Before the rumbling train halted at the station, there was a rush of students toward it, all eager to welcome the incoming crowd, and every one apparently being desirous of being the first to greet his friends. Upon the platforms of the cars also crowds of students were to be seen, waving their hats in the air or standing with their traveling bags in their hands, all as eager as the boys at the station to be foremost in the reunion scene.

Will Phelps and his room-mate stood a little back from the assembly and watched the proceedings with an interest which neither could conceal. It was all so stimulating, this animation and bustle and manifest eagerness in renewing the college life, and to feel that they too were to have a share in the possessions of these young men, scarcely one of whom was known to them personally, was in itself sufficient to quicken their pulses and arouse all the dormant forces of their nature. The train was a long one and yet from every car came pouring forth the stream of students and the excitement continued for several minutes.

Suddenly a shout went up from the crowd and there was a rush of students toward the rear car. "There's Baker! Good old Sam! Hurrah for the captain!" were among the cries that could be heard as the students surged toward the platform, from which a sturdy young man could be seen descending, apparently unmindful of the interest his coming had aroused and striving to be indifferent to the cheers that greeted his arrival.

Will Phelps and Foster Bennett almost unconsciously moved with the throng though they were not fully aware of the cause of the sudden interest of the students. "It may be that he's the captain of the football team," said Will in a low voice to his companion. "At any rate the captain's name is Baker and probably this is the man."

Foster nodded his head but made no other reply as he stood watching the young man as he stepped down from the platform. There could be no question as to who he was, for the conquering hero was writ large upon his powerful frame and the universal deference of the student body could be accounted for only by the fact that a leader in Winthrop had arrived.

"Look there, Will," said Foster suddenly. "There's Peter John."

"Where?"

"Right behind Baker. Just coming out of the door. See him?"

"Yes," responded Will as he obtained a glimpse of his classmate just as he was emerging from the doorway. Travel-stained, his hat pushed back on his head, his eyes wildly staring about at the crowd, a huge carpet-bag in his hand, his appearance certainly would have attracted the attention of the spectators had it not been that their interest was apparently centered in the mighty captain of the football team and they had no thought for any one else.

Just as Baker stepped down, Peter John emerged from the car directly behind the captain, and a cheer louder than any that before had been given rose from the assembly.

Poor Peter John! Nervous and excited, conscious only of himself and his strange surroundings, the startled freshman had no other thought than that the cheers were meant for him and doubtless were intended as a war cry from those enemies of whom he had heard such marvelous tales-the sophomores. Wild-eyed, for a moment he seemed to be well-nigh paralyzed. He stood motionless and gazed out at the surging mass of students almost as if he were minded to turn back into the car and escape from the threatening peril. But the pressure from behind was too strong to permit him to carry out his intention and he was compelled to move forward. As yet he had not seen his two waiting friends and his feeling of utter loneliness swept over him afresh. From the lowest step he was about to move when another mighty shout went up from the assembly and Peter John looked helplessly about him as if he were convinced that his doom was sealed and for him there was to be no escape.

Suddenly he darted from the midst of the crowd, sending two or three young men who chanced to be in his way sprawling, and with his quaint carpet-bag still tightly grasped in his hand fled directly back over the railway ties. He had not gone far before his flight was perceived and a shout of laughter and derision arose. Even the mighty Baker was ignored in the fresh excitement and instantly a crowd of students started in pursuit of the fleeing freshman.

"Hi, there! Stop, freshman! Wait a minute; we'll help carry your bag! Look at the sprinter! Going home? Good-bye! Good-bye!" were among the derisive cries that he heard. There could be no mistake, the attention of the entire student body was upon him, he was convinced, and his speed increased. His long legs, his flying coat tails, his flapping carpet-bag, indeed his entire appearance was such that shrieks of laughter arose from his pursuers, but Peter John never once glanced behind him. Every fresh call served to increase his terror. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were about to be taken from him and his sole hope depended upon his own exertions. It was do or die, and Peter John preferred the former.

In a brief time the good-natured crowd abandoned its pursuit, and Peter John Schenck was left to continue his lonely flight. Will Phelps and Foster Bennett had joined in the laughter at first, for the ridiculous flight of their classmate was well-nigh irresistible; but when it soon became apparent that Peter John's terror was real and that he firmly believed the entire college was in swift pursuit of him, their attitude changed.

"It's too bad, Will," said Foster. "The poor chap is scared almost to death."

"We can't help it. He'll have to learn some things, if not others," laughed Will.

"They're coming back," suggested Foster, as the pursuit was abandoned and the students laughing boisterously returned to the station.

Peter John, however, was still fleeing and his long strides and his wildly flapping carpet-bag could be distinctly seen as the frightened freshman sped up the track. The body of students, however, had now turned into the street that led back to the college grounds, and apparently Peter John's wild flight was already forgotten.

"We must go after him," said Foster thou

ghtfully.

"Oh, leave him alone," replied Will. "He'll come back all right."

"You go up to the room and I'll go and look him up."

"Not much! If you go, then I go too! I may be the next victim and I don't intend to be offered up alone. Come on, or he'll be clear back in Sterling before we find him."

Will laughed as he spoke, and at once the two boys started up the track in the direction in which their classmate had fled. He could not be seen now for a bend in the road had concealed him from sight, and for a time his two friends did not dare to run, being fearful that they too might attract an undue amount of attention and bring upon themselves the many ills from which they were striving to save their friend.

Apparently their departure from the station had not drawn the attention of any one, and, as they became convinced that they were not being followed, their own speed increased until they too had passed the bend in the road, when they began to run swiftly. Nothing could be seen of Peter John, and when they had gone a considerable distance Will Phelps stopped and whistled.

At first there was no response, but when the signal had been thrice repeated both boys heard the voice of their friend apparently coming from behind the bushes growing on the bank directly beside them.

"All alone, Will?" called Peter John timidly.

"Yes. Yes. Where are you, Peter John?" responded Will, peering about him, but as yet unable to determine where his friend was hiding.

"Here I am."

"Where's that?"

"Right here."

"Come out here where we are. Stand up like a little man and be counted."

"Sure nobody's with you?"

"Foster's here, that's all."

Slowly Peter John arose from his hiding-place and peered anxiously about him. "It's all right. Come on!" called Will encouragingly. Thus bidden, Peter John stepped forth, still holding tightly in his grasp his precious carpet-bag. Will Phelps did not even laugh nor did he have any inclination to do so as he perceived how genuine was the suffering of the terrified boy.

"You needn't be afraid now, Peter John," he said soothingly. "You're all right."

"That was a close call."

"Call for what?" demanded Foster sharply. Will turned and looked in surprise at his room-mate, for the tone of his voice was very unlike that which he had used when he had insisted that they should go to the aid of their classmate.

"I tell you they were after me!" said Peter John, wiping his brow with a huge handkerchief as he spoke."Who were after you?" demanded Foster still more sharply.

"The sophomores."

"Don't you believe it!"

"Why, they'd have got me if I hadn't put in my prettiest."

"Nobody would have paid any attention to you if you hadn't run. You drew it all on yourself and have no one else to blame."

"Guess you weren't there when I landed! They gave such a yell when I started from the cars as I never heard before in all my born days."

"Did you think they were yelling for you?"

"Of course I did. I knew they'd be waiting for me."

"Peter John, you've made a fool of yourself. There wasn't a soul there except Will and me that knew there was such a fellow in all the world as Peter John Schenck. Everybody in college will know it now, though."

"What made 'em yell so, then?" demanded Peter John.

"They weren't yelling for you at all. They were cheering for Baker, the captain of the football team. He was just ahead of you."

"They were?"

"That's what I said." Foster smiled slightly as he spoke, for the expression upon the face of Peter John was a study. Consternation, incredulity, and partial unbelief in what Foster had said were all expressed there, and his entire attitude was so indescribably ludicrous as almost to be pathetic."Swan! I didn't know that," he said at last slowly.

"Well, you know it now."

"What shall I do?"

"'Do'? Do nothing. Just attend to your own business and let everything else go."

"I thought I was attending to my own business," said Peter John woefully.

"Oh, well, never mind, Peter John," broke in Will with a laugh. "It's all over now and no bones broken."

"I wish it was all over," said Foster in a low voice to Will.

"I wish it was too. He'll be the center of interest by to-morrow. And really, Foster, it did beat anything I ever saw."

Foster Bennett smiled but made no reply, and together the three boys began to retrace their way to the station. Peter John evidently was somewhat crestfallen and seldom spoke. At the station no students were seen, and the trio at once started up the street toward the college.

"I suppose my things are in my room," Peter John ventured to suggest.

"Yes, they're there all right. I went over this morning to see about them."

"Thank you. I'll be pretty busy for the rest of the days I take it."

"That won't do you any harm. You can come over and sleep on the couch in our room to-night if you would like to," suggested Foster.

"Are you all settled?""Pretty much. Enough so that we can make room for you. There's always room for one more, you know." Foster spoke pleasantly and Peter John was quick to respond. They were now near the college grounds, however, and the interest of Peter John was quickly taken up in his surroundings. Both Will and Foster were familiar with the name of every building by this time, and their residence of three days in the college town had already given to them a sense of part possession, and they glibly explained to their classmate the name and use of each building as they passed it until at last they halted before Leland Hall, where Peter John was to have his room.

"I'd like to know who's to be my room-mate," he said as all three turned into the low entry and began to mount the worn stairway.

"Probably he's thinking of the same thing too," laughed Will. "Here you are," he added as he stopped before the door of a room on the third floor. "Yours is twenty-six, isn't it?"

"Yes."

"Well, here it is."

"Come on in, fellows," urged Peter John, opening the door as he spoke, and all three found themselves in the presence of a young man of their own age, who glanced quickly up from the box which he was unpacking as they entered.

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