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   Chapter 4 A CLOUD OF WITNESSES

Winning His W": A Story of Freshman Year at College" By Everett T. Tomlinson Characters: 12726

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Will Phelps had been elected temporary secretary and treasurer of his class, the choice having been made chiefly because his appearance, as he stood on the platform, pleased his classmates, and not because of any general acquaintance that had been formed. And yet his election had brought him at once into a certain prominence, and doubtless Will was duly appreciative of the honor bestowed upon him.

The member of the junior class to whom had been entrusted the organizing of the freshmen now rose to give some general words of advice before the meeting was adjourned. "There are some things in college," he was saying, "that have the force of laws. Some of them will appear foolish to you, it may be, and yet it will be more foolish to disregard them. For example, freshmen are not expected to go up to the hotel parlors in the evening, it would be decidedly better for them not to display on their caps or jersey the letters or numerals of the schools from which they have come, and they must not tack their cards on the doors of their rooms." Walker, the junior, continued his directions until he thought he had covered most of the details of the life upon which the incoming class was entering, but his remarks were not completed when Peter John Schenck arose from his seat and stood facing the president. There was a momentary pause as Walker ceased speaking, and the eyes of all the class were turned toward Peter John.

After due deliberation, Peter John said in a loud voice, "Mr. President, I move that we adjourn."

The hush that followed was broken by a loud laugh which had been started by Walker himself. Peter John, however, glanced about the room as if he was unable to perceive what it was that had caused the outbreak. Apparently unabashed, he again turned to the class president and said, "Isn't a motion to adjourn always in order, Mr. President? If it is, then I repeat my former motion. I move that we adjourn."

Hawley was too good-natured to treat the interruption as it deserved, so he said, "Is the motion seconded?"

Apparently it was not, and still unabashed, Peter John again took his seat while Walker resumed his remarks.

"I don't know that I have anything more to say, only to tell you fellows to be careful. College traditions and customs have all the force of laws, and though some of them may seem to be foolish, still I believe in the main they help to make the life here what it is, and that's what you all want to get. If you have any questions to ask, don't be afraid to come to me with them, or to any of the juniors, and you'll be given all we know, which, though I can promise you it may not be much, still may be just a little more than you know. Or, perhaps, some of you," he added, glancing quizzically in the direction of Peter John Schenck as he spoke.

When Walker departed from the room, Peter John was again the first to arise. "I move we adjourn," he said in a loud voice.

"Second the motion," said Foster Bennett quickly. The motion was put and instantly carried, and the class passed out from the room.

"It was anything to shut up Peter John," Foster explained to Will as he joined his room-mate. "Did you ever see the like?"

"I never did," laughed Will. "I feel almost guilty to be acting as secretary for the class. If we had ten other offices to vote upon, I believe Peter John would have made the first nomination for every one."

"He certainly is the freshest freshman in the whole bunch."

"Yes, he doesn't know enough to know that he doesn't know, and that's about as far down as a fellow can go in his ignorance, you know."

"What shall we do for him?"

"Nothing."

"But he'll have trouble."

"Sure."

"I'd hate to see him catch it too hard."

"You can't save him, Foster. He's got to learn his lesson. The idea of his being on his feet so much to-day."

"Well, he helped us to some good officers anyway, I'll say that much for him," laughed Foster. "But if he made such an impression on our class, what'll he do for the sophomores?"

"You'd better be thinking about what they'll do for him."Walker now joined the two boys, introducing himself to each, and accompanying them to their room, where he entered and took a seat at their invitation. He was a fine-looking young man and of most agreeable manners, so that soon both Will and Foster were delighted with him personally and appreciative of the honor of the visit from their visitor.

"No," Walker was saying, "the hazing doesn't amount to anything much in Winthrop. It's nothing more than a little good-natured 'horse play' for the most part. Of course, once in a while a fellow gets a little more attention than the rest of the class; but as a rule it's his own fault. You have a classmate that'll be very popular with the sophs, if he doesn't look out," he added with a laugh.

"Who's that?" inquired Will, with a wink at his room-mate.

"The chap that was on his feet so much in the class meeting this afternoon."

"We were just talking about him," said Foster quickly. "You know he fitted at the same school where we did, and naturally we want to lend him a hand when we can. What had we better do?"

"Nothing."

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I say. You can't do much for such a fellow; he has to learn it all for himself. The trouble is that he doesn't know how much or what he's got to learn yet. You can't do much for such a-"

Walker stopped abruptly as Peter John himself entered the room. His face was beaming, and as he removed his hat his stiff red hair seemed almost to rise on his head. "Well, fellows," he said, "we did things up brown this afternoon, didn't we?"

"You did too much," said Walker quietly.

"Haven't I as good a right as anybody to make a motion?" demanded Peter John hotly.

"You have as much right, but you don't want always to take all your rights, you know."

"Why not? I'll stand up for my rights every time. Now, I don't believe a word of what you said this afternoon."

"You're complimentary; but you're under no obligations to believe me," laughed Walker.

"I don't mean just that. What I mean is that I'd like to see the sophomore who'd tell me what I could wear or what I couldn't; or where I could go and where I couldn't. He hasn't anything to say about that."

"He thinks he has," suggested Walker quietly.

"I don't care w

hat he thinks. I know my rights, and I intend to stand up for them too!"

"Is that why you were running up the railroad track the day when you came to Winthrop?" demanded Will Phelps.

"Never you mind about that!" retorted Peter John in nowise abashed. "That was when I didn't know as much as I do now."

"Three or four days will do great things for a fellow," remarked Walker dryly.

"Yes, sir, that's so. You're right about that," acknowledged Peter John graciously. "Say, fellows, what are you going to do about these Greek letter societies?" he inquired abruptly, turning to his two classmates as he spoke.Both Will Phelps and Foster Bennett glanced uneasily at Walker, but the junior only smiled and made no response. It was apparent though that the topic Peter John had broached was one upon which all three had been conferring.

"We haven't done anything as yet," said Foster.

"Neither have I," acknowledged Peter John. "I thought I'd take my time before I decided which one I'd join. I suppose I'll have to write home to pa, but he won't know as much about it as I do."

"We live and learn," said Walker as he rose to depart. "I'll see you to-night?" he inquired of Will and Foster as he stopped for a moment in the doorway. Will glanced questioningly at his room-mate and then said: "Thank you, Walker. We'll be very glad to come."

"Where you going? What did he want?" demanded Peter John when Walker was gone.

"It was something personal," said Foster. "Walker thinks you'll have to walk the chalk line, Peter John, or you'll have trouble with the sophs."

"He does, does he? Well, I'll show him. I'd like to know what right they've got to tell me what to do. I'll do as I please! My chum-"

It was instantly plain to the boys now the cause for this sudden and strange change in Peter John's attitude. He was relying upon the prowess of Hawley to protect him now and apparently was confident that he would not be molested since he roomed with the young giant whose name already was known throughout the college and from whom such great things were expected for the football team.

"Don't depend too much upon Hawley! He can't be everywhere, remember," said Foster warningly.

"I'll show 'em, if they come near me!" retorted Peter John as he departed.

For several days the college life went on quietly and the boys were becoming somewhat accustomed to their new surroundings. There had been a "sweater rush" between the two lower classes, in which Hawley had been entrusted with the precious sweater, and, surrounded by his classmates, successfully defended it against the onslaught of the sophomores. The struggle had been severe but in good part, and the worst results had been some torn clothing and bruised faces. The freshmen wore upon their arms a strip of white cloth to enable them to distinguish their own comrades, and great was their elation when after the time limit had expired, it was discovered that the coveted sweater was unharmed. The strength of Hawley had been as the strength of ten and his praises were in every mouth.

Into this struggle Will Phelps had thrown himself with all his might, and when he joyfully emerged from the struggling mass of humanity gathered about Hawley his rejoicing was great and his cheers for the class were among the loudest.

On the border of the crowd he had perceived Peter John, but his classmate displayed no evidence of the recent struggle and Will was about to question him, when Peter John himself said, "Come over to my room to-night, Will."

"All right." Will Phelps had promised readily, and then the matter departed from his mind as he rushed about among his classmates.That evening he suddenly glanced up from the book he was studying and said to his room-mate: "Foster, I agreed to go over to Peter John's room to-night. Want to go?"

"Can't say that I'm pining for it. What does he want?"

"I don't know. He seemed to be very much in earnest about it, though."

"Is it much nearer from here to his room than it is from his room to ours? If he wanted to see you so much, why didn't he come over here?"

"That isn't Peter John's way," laughed Will. "I promised to go, so I think I'll run over for a minute. I'll be back pretty soon."

"If you need me let me know," called Foster as Will departed, and he then at once resumed his task.

Will Phelps ran across the campus to Leland Hall, and as he turned in at the dimly lighted hall the contrast between his own surroundings and those in which he now found himself was for the moment almost painful. The stone step at the entrance had been worn away by the passing of boyish feet over it for more than a century. For a moment there flashed into his mind the thought of the eager lives that there had been trained and long since had passed over into the land beyond. Will himself was the fourth generation in direct descent in his own family to enter Winthrop, and as he now passed slowly up the rough, narrow, and worn stairway, he found himself thinking of his own father and grandfather and great-grandfather, all of whom doubtless had many a time been in the very same hallway where he himself then was. Even then from far down the street came the sounds of song and laughter of some passing body of students and the faint sound he could hear was for the moment almost like the echo of long past days. The very hall seemed to echo also with the footfalls of students who had long since completed their course and passed on. He was surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.

Suddenly from the floor above him came the sound of noisy shouts and shrieks of laughter. The vision of other days and other men instantly departed, and the full force of the appeal of the present swept over him. Bounding up the steps, two at a time, he swiftly came to the third floor and then stopped abruptly as the shouts were redoubled and evidently came from Peter John Schenck's room.

For a moment Will hesitated, almost tempted to turn back, but his feeling of curiosity was strong and resolutely he advanced and rapped upon the door. This was quickly opened and Will stepped inside the room. The door had instantly been closed and bolted behind him, but Will was hardly aware of that so interested was he in the sight upon which he gazed in the room which was filled with a noisy group of students.

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