Walter Sherwood's Probation by Horatio Alger
Chapter III. A College Banquet
There was a rattling of knives and forks, a clink of glasses, and a buzz of conversation. Doctor Mack was able to hear considerable of it. There were anecdotes of the professors, accounts of narrow escapes from "flunking" in the recitation-room, and remarks by no means complimentary to some of the text-books in use in college. It was evident that the collegians assembled cared more for a good time than for study. Yet these seemed to be the chosen associates of his ward, the doctor reflected.
As the feast proceeded, he grew more sober. He felt that college life, however much it was doing for the faithful students, was only fostering self-indulgence in his ward.
"Something must be done!" reflected Doctor Mack. "Desperate diseases require desperate remedies."
Again the chairman rapped for order, and again Walter's voice was heard.
"Brothers," he said, "the material part of our banquet is ended. We have gratified our appetites with the savory dishes provided by our friend Daniels. We have quaffed the rare Falernian wine, of a vintage unknown to Horace; we have quickened our wits, as I trust, under those favorable conditions, and the time has now come for the feast of reason and the flow of soul. Exhausted as we are by our labors in the classroom"--great laughter--"we have sought refreshment in the way that is most agreeable. It's a way we have at old Euclid! Sing!"
Immediately the assembled company started up the well-known college song:
"It's a way we have at old Euclid, It's a way we have at old Euclid, It's a way we have at old Euclid, To drive dull care away. It's a way we have at old Euclid, It's a way we have at old Euclid, To drive dull care away. "And we think it is no sin, sir, To take the Freshmen in, sir, And ease them of their tin, sir, To drive dull care away. It's a way we have at old Euclid, It's a way we have at old Euclid, To drive dull care away."
There were other verses, but these will serve as specimens. All joined in the chorus, and Doctor Mack, who remembered his own college life, felt almost tempted to add his voice to those of the young men in the opposite room.
"But, pshaw!" he thought. "What would Walter and his friends think to hear an old graybeard like me taking part in the convivial songs? There is no great harm in singing college songs, if it is accompanied by good work in the recitation-room."
"Brothers," resumed Walter, "we will do our best to drive dull care away. Let us forget, this happy evening, that there are such things as logarithms, and sines, and tangents, and Greek tragedies. To-night our hearts shall be uplifted by sentiment and song. Brother Corbett, you will oblige us with 'Rumsty Ho!'"
A young man with a pleasant voice sang this song, one unfamiliar to the doctor:
"A beggar man laid himself down to sleep, Rumsty Ho! rumsty Ho! A beggar man laid himself down to sleep By the banks of the Mersey, so high and steep, Rumsty Ho! rumsty Ho! "Two thieves came walking by that way, Rumsty Ho! rumsty Ho! Two thieves came walking by that way, And they came to the place where the old man lay, Rumsty Ho! rumsty Ho! "They stole his wallet and they stole his staff, Rumsty Ho! rumsty Ho! They stole his wallet and they stole his staff, And then broke out in a great horse-laugh, Rumsty Ho! rumsty Ho!"
There was more of this song, too. Next came "Crambambuli," and then "Cocach-lunk" both of which were familiar to the doctor.
Then Walter said: "Brothers, I have great pleasure in stating that Professor Griggs has concluded to honor our dinner by his learned presence, and has consented to address us. Permit me to introduce Professor Theophilus Griggs."
One of the company had made up as the mathematical professor. In a nasal tone he made a rambling speech, in which he introduced mathematical allusions, and used some of the favorite phrases of the rather dull and prosy instructor, with whom all the students were familiar, some to their sorrow. It seemed to be very amusing to the boys present, as shown by their hearty laughter, but of course Doctor Mack could not appreciate it.
Other songs and other speeches followed. Though for the most part college songs, there were some of a more serious character. Time slipped by, and at length Doctor Mack saw by his watch that it was half-past eleven.
"How long will they keep it up, I wonder?" he asked himself. "I feel drowsy."
He was answered by the chairman.
"Brothers," he said, "time waits for no man. The hour has arrived when, according to agreement, we must wind up our festivities. Hand in hand we will sing 'Auld Lang Syne,' hoping, at some auspicious season after the coming vacation is over, to have another good time. I thank you all for accepting my invitation, and hope you have enjoyed yourselves."
"Three cheers for Sherwood!" cried one of the company.
They were given with a will. Then the parting song was sung, and the students retired to their rooms in one of the college dormitories.
Doctor Mack went thoughtfully to bed.
"It is well I came," he reflected. "Walter has done nothing decidedly wrong as yet, but it is evident he is not improving."
"Well," said James Holdens as he met Doctor Mack the next morning, "did you hear the boys last night?"
"I couldn't very well help it," answered the doctor, smiling. "That young Sherwood seems to be very popular."
"Yes, sir; he is very free with his money."
"In what other way does he spend it?"
"Mr. Daniels keeps half a dozen horses to let to students and others. Sherwood hires a team at least twice a week, and of course it counts up."
"I was not able to spend money in that way when I attended college."
"Then you are a college graduate?" said Holden.
"Did you graduate at Euclid?"
"No; I am a Yale man."
"I congratulate you, sir; I should like to graduate from Yale.
"I hope you may, some time, my young friend. You would derive more benefit, I'll be bound, than those young roysterers of last evening."
"I hope they didn't keep you awake, sir."
"They certainly did as long as they stayed. I should have gone to bed soon afterward, but that I had something on my mind. By the way, don't mention to any of the students that they had an unseen listener."
Doctor Mack took the first train after breakfast, and returned to his home without seeing his ward.
Nancy Sprague questioned him eagerly.
"And how is Master Walter?" she asked.
"Very well, indeed, Nancy."
"Was he surprised to see you?" "He didn't see me, Nancy."
"He didn't see you!" ejaculated the housekeeper.
"No; the fact was, I went away on a matter of business, and it was not convenient to call on Walter. But I heard him."
"I don't see how you could have been near him without seeing him."
"I shall see him soon, Nancy, and so will you. In two weeks vacation will be here. Examinations are near, and I might have interfered with his studies," the doctor added, with a little innocent evasion.
"To be sure, sir! To be sure! I make no doubt Master Walter is a great scholar."
"I have very strong doubts on that point myself," thought Doctor Mack, but he did not care to express himself thus to Nancy.
"I am so glad the dear boy is coming home soon," murmured the housekeeper. "He has been studying so hard he needs a good long rest. I will make some cookies expressly for him after he comes. I don't believe he gets any at college."
"I wonder what Nancy would say if she could have seen Walter presiding at the supper, and heard the songs?" thought Doctor Mack.