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   Chapter 5 UNSOUGHT ATTENTIONS

Winning His W": A Story of Freshman Year at College" By Everett T. Tomlinson Characters: 12653

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


One glance about him had been sufficient to convince Will Phelps that his classmates were suffering from a visit of the sophomores, a dozen or more of whom he recognized as being in the room. He looked quickly behind him at the door, but this already had been closed and three of the stalwart sophomores were standing with their backs against it, the others being stationed at different points about the room. In the center stood Mott, a lusty sophomore whom he had frequently seen and whose general bearing he had intensely disliked, for his face bore the unmistakable traces of dissipation and his bearing was that of a rowdy. The fact that Mott had secured a high position among the college athletes had in a measure made amends for his low tendencies of life in the eyes of his thoughtless mates, but though he was by nature somewhat of a leader still his personal popularity was low, and it was only his physical prowess that gave him any standing.

Seated upon one end of his study table was Hawley, his face beaming with good nature and smiling broadly as he faced the assembly in the room. In one corner Peter John was standing, his back against the wall and in his hands was one of the heavy wooden chairs which he was grasping by the rounds. Even in the somewhat dim light Will could see that the great splotches of red on Peter John's face appeared to be larger and of a more fiery tint than usual, and his coarse red hair fairly stood on end. There was an expression of mingled terror and wild, almost ungovernable, rage on his face, and Will knew what that portended at that time. A brief silence had followed Will's entrance, and Mott had turned to some of his comrades and a meaning smile appeared for a moment on his face as he perceived who the new-comer was. In a moment, however, the tense stillness of the room returned, and Mott, turning to Peter John, said:

"Now, then, freshman, are you ready?"

"I'll brain the first man that comes near me! Don't you lay a finger on me or I'll break your head! This is my room and I'll have you understand that you can't play any of your dirty tricks on me!"

Peter John's voice rose almost to a shriek, and lifting the chair he gazed menacingly at Mott, almost as if he was minded to rush upon him. Hawley laughed as his room-mate spoke, but Will's face became pale and he could almost hear the beating of his own heart, so intensely excited was he. He understood Peter John's disposition better than any of those who were in the room, and his fear of what might follow was great.

"We'll give you one more chance," said Mott slowly.

"I don't want any more chances. I want you to get out of this room! I didn't ask you to come! You've no right here!" shouted Peter John.

"You didn't have to ask us," retorted Mott. "We came because you need us and for the good of the college. Come, freshman, do what I tell you."

"Don't you come near-" began Peter John, but the sentence was not completed. At some unseen signal a half-dozen sprang upon him. Before he could bring down the chair which he still was holding above his head he was suddenly seized by his adversaries, the chair was wrenched from his hands, he was thrown heavily to the floor, and in a moment his hands and feet were fast bound with cords, and he was a helpless prisoner. Still he did not cease his struggling, but as he twisted and writhed he only drew the cords more tightly and made his own helplessness more apparent.

"I know who you are!" he shrieked. "I'll report you, every one! I'll give the whole list of your names to the president! I'll have you arrested! I'll put you in jail! You're a lot of thieves and low-down scoundrels! I'll have you put where you won't abuse anybody any more!" Peter John's voice rose with every fresh threat until at last it almost broke in a sob. He was almost beside himself, and Will Phelps, though he shared in the anger of his classmate, was rejoiced that he was helpless and could not do what his desperation prompted.

"Tie your handkerchief over his mouth, Hines," said Mott to one of his companions. "We must hush the infant's wailings or he'll have the whole of Winthrop up here. He seems to have some language besides that of the ordinary 'infant crying in the night'."

At Mott's direction Hines and two of his classmates at once securely bound a handkerchief about Peter John's face, a task that was not accomplished without a desperate struggle.

"Now then, since he seems to be quieted," said Mott at last, when his bidding had been done, "we'll turn to the other part of the program. Here, you freshman," he added, turning to Will Phelps as he spoke, "step up here and take your seat beside your classmate."

For an instant Will hesitated. The sight of Peter John roused every instinct of combativeness which he possessed, and that was by no means small, but a laugh from Hawley restored a measure of self-possession, and quietly and without a word he seated himself on the table by the side of his friend.

"Good! That's the way to do it! Now then, Hawley," said Mott, "you've got to get rid of that eternal grin of yours. Wipe that smile off your face and throw it out of the window."

Hawley laughed aloud as he said, "I've been trying to get rid of it for nineteen years, but I haven't succeeded yet. If you fellows will show me how to do it I'll be yours truly now and for evermore."

Some of the sophomores laughed, but Mott glared angrily at them as he said, "Quit that!" Then turning again to Hawley he said, "Oh, we'll help you all right enough. Just do as I tell you!"

"How shall I do it?"

"Take your handkerchief and wipe that smile off your face and throw it out of the window as I tell you."

Hawley drew a huge handkerchief from his pocket with which he vigorously rubbed his face, and then going soberly to the window pretended to throw something out; but when he returned to his seat his laughter became uncontrollable and he broke forth into a loud guffaw, in which some of the assembly joined.

At Mott's rebuke the laughter ceased, and then he said again to Hawley, "That won't do, freshman. You're not rid of it yet. Try it again!"

Six times the huge and good-natured freshman was compelled to repeat his senseless and silly performance, and then Mott declared that he was satisfie

d.

"Don't have a relapse," he said warningly, and then, turning to Will Phelps, he said, "Now I want my nice little boy, mamma's pet and papa's joy, to show what a good little boy he really is. He isn't going to do any of the naughty things that some of the wicked little college boys do. He is strong, he is, and he promised mamma he wouldn't, and he won't. Let's give him a song, fellows," he added, turning to his classmates, and at once the boys began to sing:

"We're coming, we're coming, our brave little band,

On the right side of temperance we always do stand;

We don't use tobacco, for this we do think,

That those who do use it most always do drink."

Some of the singers had very musical voices and the simple little ditty sounded very clear and strong as they all joined in it. Will Phelps, however, was thinking of what it was that would be required of him. Then flashed into his mind the last conversation he had had with his mother and in which he had given her a promise not unlike that at which Mott had hinted. And he intended to keep it too, he assured himself. Come what might, he would not break it. He even smiled slightly as he thought of what his mother's feelings would be if she could look into Peter John's room and see what was then going on there.

As the song ceased abruptly Will said, "What is it you want me to do, Mott?"

"Well, now, freshman, that's cool. You can't help being a freshman, but it's not well even for a freshman to be too fresh. Ever hear the like of that, fellows?" he inquired of his classmates.

"Never did. Never did," responded several, shaking their heads soberly.

"Just think of it," began Mott again. "Here's a freshman who is so anxious to get into our good graces that he's not only willing to do what we tell him but he even comes and asks us what it is we want him to do. That beats anything old Winthrop has ever seen yet."

Will's face flushed, but he was silent, though Hawley began to laugh again. "Now, then, freshman," said Mott, pointing his finger at Will, "we want you to get down on the floor and wrestle with temptation."

"There's nothing here that tempts me very much," replied Will coolly, and Hawley promptly laughed aloud.

"You do as I tell you! Get down on the floor and wrestle with temptation," demanded Mott sharply.

"I don't mind doing it if it will please you any," responded Will as he slipped from his seat on the table to the floor."That's the way. Now then, papa's joy and mamma's pet, show us how it is that you do the trick."

Stretched upon the floor, Will Phelps went through his struggle with an imaginary foe. He twisted and writhed and struggled, shrieks of laughter greeting his efforts from the assembled sophomores, and even Hawley joined in, so ridiculous was the appearance which Will presented.

"That's very good, very good indeed!" remarked Mott when several minutes had elapsed. "You'd better get up now and take a seat beside your friend."

Will quickly did as he was bidden, laughing slightly as he glanced at Hawley, whose imperturbable good nature was not in anywise ruffled.

"Hawley, you're a great football player, I understand," said Mott.

"I'm a big player, can't say that I'm great. Some fellows might think so, but it depends on whether they've seen much or know much, I fancy."

"That's right. You're as modest as Mary's little lamb. I hear you're a great sprinter," he added, turning abruptly to Will Phelps.

"Oh, I can run a little. If you'll give me the chance now I'll show you how I can leave the sophs behind," said Will with a laugh, for he was now feeling somewhat the effects of Hawley's manner of meeting his tormentors, and as he glanced down at Peter John it required no deep insight to perceive which was the better way.

The boys in the room laughed good-naturedly and one of them said, "That's enough, Mott. They don't need any more.""Hold on, I'm not done yet," replied Mott. "Tell me what's the name of the little school from which you came," he demanded of Will.

"The Sterling High School."

"And you ran there?"

"A little."

"Get any medals?"

"A few."

"Nice ones! Got any here?"

On his fob Will wore the gold medal he had won the preceding June, but he laughed and made no reply to Mott's question, fearful of incurring further ridicule if he should display the trophy.

"Did you run against the track team of the Meadowbrook Academy?" inquired Mott.

"No. Is that where you fitted?" replied Will simply. Hawley broke into another loud laugh and Mott's face flushed. Will perceived that he had made a mistake and his better plan would be to say as little as possible, whatever the provocation might be or the opening his adversary might give him.

"Did you beat the fast sprinter from the Toad Hollow Institute?" demanded Mott.

"Can't say that I did. I never heard of the school till now."

"Ever run against anybody from the Honeyville Classical Seminary?"

"No."

"Or from the Smartville Four Corners team?"

"We didn't have anything to do with those schools. We weren't in their class."

"Oh, let up, Mott. We've done enough. Let 'em go now," suggested one of the sophomores.

"Not yet," responded Mott. "We must have these freshmen give us an exhibition of what they can do. You fellows take off your collars," he said, turning again to Will and his classmate.

For an instant Will Phelps hesitated and there was a sudden tightening of the muscles in his arms, but Hawley, good-natured and imperturbable as ever, at once removed his collar and Will quietly followed his example.

"That's good," said Mott encouragingly. "Now take out your collar buttons."

Both freshmen obeyed, wondering what was to be required of them. Their curiosity was speedily relieved when Mott said, "We'll have a collar-button race. You two athletes put these buttons on the floor and push them across to the other side of the room with your noses. The one that wins will make the track team here I haven't a doubt."

Hawley again laughed loudly as he and Will took the places assigned them. For a moment their faces were near together and Hawley whispered a few words in Will's ear. His companion's eyes flashed in response, but he did not reply, and in a moment, at Mott's word, the race was begun.

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