Read CHAPTER IX of At Good Old Siwash , free online book, by George Fitch, on ReadCentral.com.

CUPID -- THAT OLD COLLEGE CHUM

Well! Well! Well! Here’s another magazine investigator who has made a great discovery. Listen to this, Sam: “Co-education, as found in American colleges, is amazingly productive of romance, and the great number of marriages resulting between the men and women in co-educational schools indicates all too plainly that love-making occupies an important part of the courses of study.”

Those are his very words. Isn’t he the Christopher Columbus, though! Who would have thought it? Who would have dreamt that there were any mutual admiration societies in co-educational colleges? I am amazed. What won’t these investigators discover next? Why, one of them is just as likely as not to get wise to the fact that there is a hired-girl problem. You can’t keep anything away from these gimlet-eyed scientists.

Oh, sure! I knew it was just about time for some kind of an off-key noise from you, you grouchy old leftover. Just because you graduated from one of those paradises in pants, where they import a carload of girls from all over the country to one dance a year and worry along the rest of the time with chorus girls and sweet young town girls who began bringing students up by hand about the time Wm. H. Taft was a Freshman, you think you are qualified to toss in a few hoots about co-education. Back away, Sam! That subject is loaded. I’ve had palpitations on a college campus myself; and I want to tell you right here that it beats having them at a stage door, or at a summer resort, or in a parlor just around the corner from nine relatives, or in one of those short-story conservatories, or in the United States mails, forty ways for Sunday; and, besides, it’s educational. We co-educationalists get a four years’ course in close-coupled conversation and girl classification while you fellows in the skirtless schools are getting the club habit and are saving up for the privilege of dancing with other fellows’ fiancees at the proms once a year.

Honestly, I never could see just why a fellow should wait until he is through college before he begins to study the science of how to make some particular girl believe that if Adam came back he would look at him and say: “Gee, it swells me all up to think that chap is a descendant of mine!”

And I may be thick in my thought dome, but I never could see any objection to marrying a classmate, either, even though I didn’t do it myself. I admit co-educational schools are strong on matrimony. Haven’t I dug up for thirty-nine wedding presents for old Siwash students already? And don’t I get a shiver that reaches from my collar-button down to my heels every time I get one of those thick, stiff, double-barreled envelopes, with “Kindly dig,” or words to that effect, on the inside? Usually they come in pairs the bid to the next wedding and the bill for the last present. Why, out of sixty-five ninety-umpters with whom I graduated, six couples are already holding class reunions every evening; and just the other day another of the boys, who thought he would look farther, came back after having made a pretty thorough inspection all over the civilized world, and camped outside of the home of a girl in our class until she admitted that he looked better to her than any of the rising young business men who had bisected her orbit in the last ten years. They’re to be married this spring and I’m going back to the wedding. Incidentally I’m going to help pay for three more silver cups. We give a silver cup to each class baby and each frat baby, and I’ve been looking around this past year for a place where we can buy them by the dozen.

Weddings! Why, man, a co-educational college is a wedding factory. What of it? As far as I can see, Old Siwash produces as many governors, congressmen and captains of industry to the graduate as any of the single-track schools. And I notice one thing more. You don’t find any of our college couples hanging around the divorce courts. There is a peculiar sort of stickiness about college marriages. They are for keeps. When a Siwash couple doesn’t have anything else agreeable to talk about it can sit down and have a lovely three months’ conversation on the good old times. It takes a mighty acrimonious quarrel to stand a college reunion around a breakfast table. Take it from me, you lonesome old space-waster, with nothing but a hatrack to give you an affectionate welcome when you come home at night, there is no better place on earth to find good wife material than a college campus. Of course I don’t think a man should go to college to find a wife; but if his foot should slip, and he should marry a girl whose sofa pillows have the same reading matter on them as there is on his, there’s nothing to yell for help about. Ten to one he’s drawn a prize. Girls who go through co-educational colleges are extra fine, hand-picked, sun-ripened, carefully wrapped-up peaches and I know what I’m talking about.

How do I know? Heavens, man! didn’t I go through the Siwash peach orchard for four years? Don’t I know the game from candy to carriages? Didn’t I spend every spring in a light pink haze of perfect bliss? And wasn’t all the Latin and Greek and trigonometry and athletic junk crowded out of my memory at the end of every college year by the face of the most utterly, superlatively marvelous girl in the world? And wasn’t it a different face every spring? Oh, I took the entire course in girlology, Sam! I never skipped a single recitation. I got a Summa Cum Laudissimus in strolling, losing frat pins, talking futures and acquiring hand-made pennants. And the only bitter thought I’ve got is that I can’t come back.

You’ll never realize, my boy, how old Pa Time roller-skates by until you go back to a co-ed college ten years afterward. Here, in the busy mart of trade, I’m a promising young infant who has got to “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” to the big ones, and be good and get to work on time for thirty years before I will be trusted to run a monopoly alone on a quiet day; but back on the Siwash Campus, Sam, I’m a patriarch. That’s one reason why I don’t go back. I’m married and I don’t care to be madly sought after, but also I don’t care to make a hit as a fine old antique for a while yet, thank you. When I am forty, and have gummed up my digestion in the dollar-herding game until I wheeze for breath when I run up a column of figures, I’ll go back and have a nice comfy time in the grandpa class. But not now. The only difference between a thirty-year-old alumnus and the mummy of Rameses, to a college girl, is in favor of the mummy. It doesn’t come around and ask for dances.

I suppose, Sam, you think you’ve been all lit up under the upper left-hand vest pocket over one or two girls in your time, but I don’t believe a fellow can fall in love so far over his ears anywhere in the world as he can in Siwash College. That’s only natural, for the finest girls in the world go to Siwash except one girl who went to another school by accident and whom I ran across about three years ago wearing an Alfalfa Delt pin. I’ll take you up to the house to see her some time. She was too nice a girl to wear an Alfalfa Delt pin and I just naturally had to take it off and put on an Eta Bita Pie pin; and somehow in the proceedings we got married and all I have to say about it is three cheers for the universe!

Anyway, as I was saying, it was as easy to fall in love at Siwash as it was to forget to go to chapel. We got along all right in the fall. We liked the girls enormously and were always smashing up some football team just to please them. And, of course, we kept ourselves all stove up financially during the winter hauling them to parties and things in Jonesville’s nine varnished cabs. It took about as much money to support those cabs as it does to run a fleet of battleships. But it was in the spring that the real fireworks began. Suddenly, about the first Wednesday after the third Friday in April, the ordinary Siwash man discovers that some girl whom he has known all year isn’t a girl at all, but a peachblow angel who is just stopping on earth to make a better man of him and show him what a dull, pifflish thing Paradise would be without her. Life becomes a series of awful blank spots, with walks on the campus between them. He can’t get his calculus because he is busy figuring on a much more difficult problem; he is trying to figure whether three dances with some other fellow mean anything more to Her than charity. He gets cold chills every time he reflects that at any minute a member of some royal family may pass by and notice Her, and that he will have to promote international spasms by hashing him. He realizes that he has misspent his life; that football is a boy business; that frats are foolish, and that there ought to be a law giving every college graduate a job paying at least two thousand dollars a year on graduation. He is nervous, feverish, depressed, inspired, anxious, oblivious, glorified, annihilated, encouraged and all cluttered up with emotion. The planet was invented for the purpose of letting Her dig Her number three heels into it on spring afternoons. Sunshine is important because Her hair looks better with the light on it. Every time She frowns the weather bureau hangs out a tornado signal, and every time She smiles somebody puts a light-blue sash around the horizon and a double row of million-candle-power calcium lights clear down the future, as far as he can see.

That’s what love does to a college boy in spring. It’s a kind of rose-colored brainstorm, but it very seldom has complications. By the next fall, the ozone is out of the air; and after a couple has gone strolling about twice, football and the sorority rushes butt in and it’s all over. Freshman girls are a help, too. Beats all how much assistance a Freshman girl can be in forgetting a Senior girl who isn’t on the premises! Even in the spring-fever period we didn’t get engaged to any extent. The nearest I ever came to it was to ask the light of my life for ninety-several if she would wear my frat pin forever and ever until next fall. And, let me tell you, there wasn’t any local of the Handholders’ Union on the Siwash Campus. That’s another place where you soubrette worriers have us figured out wrong. Rushing a Siwash girl was about as distant a proposition for us as trying to snuggle up to the planets in the telescopic astronomy course. For cool, pleasant and skillful unapproachability, a co-ed girl breaks all records. We just worshiped them as higher beings, and I find that a lot of Siwash boys who have married Siwash girls are still a little bit dazed about the whole affair. They can’t figure how they ever had the nerve to start real businesslike negotiations.

This very high-class insulation in our love affairs caused us fellows a lot of woe once in a while. You never could tell whether or not a girl was engaged to some fellow back home. We didnt get impertinent enough to ask. I think there ought to be a law compelling a girl who comes to college engaged to some rising young merchant prince in the country store back home to wear an engagement ring around her neck, where it can be easily seen. More than once, a Siwash man who had been conservative enough to worship the same girl right through his college course and who had proposed to her on the last night of school, when the open season for thou-beside-me talk began, has found that all the time some chap has been writing her a letter a day and that she has only regarded the Siwash man as a kind friend, and so on. Never will I forget when Frankling got stung that way! Of course we didnt generally know when a tragedy of this sort happened, but in his case he brought it on himself. If he hadnt made a furry-eared songbird out of himself when Ole Skjarsen drew his girl at the Senior class party

You want to know about this girl lottery business, you say? Well, it’s plain that I shall have to begin right back at the beginning of the Siwash social system and educate you a little at a time. Now this class party drawing is an institution which has been handed down at Siwash ever since the ancients went to school before the war. You see, at Siwash, as at most colleges, there is the fraternity problem. The frat men give parties to the sorority girls as often as the Dean of Women will stand for it, and every one gets gorgeously acquainted and extremely sociable. The non-fratters go to the Y. M. C. A. reception at the beginning of each year and to the Commencement exercises, and that’s about all. Of course they pick up lots of friends among the non-sorority girls; and I guess D. Cupid solders up about as many jobs among them as he does among the others. But there isn’t much chance for these two tribes to mix. That was why the class lottery was invented. It has been a custom at Siwash, ever since there has been a Siwash, for each class to hold a party each year. Now class parties are held in order that pure and perfect democracy may be promoted, and it is necessary to take violent measures to shuffle up the people and get every one interested. So they draw for partners. The class which is about to effervesce socially holds a meeting. At this meeting the names of all the men are put in one hat and the names of all the girls in another. Then two judges of impregnable honesty draw out a name from each hat simultaneously and read them to the class.

When I was at Siwash a class party was the most exciting event in college. For uncertainty and breath-grabbing anxiety they made the football games seem as tame as a church election. Of course everybody can’t be a Venus de Milo or an Apollo with a Beveled Ear, as Petey Simmons used to call him. Every class has its middle-aged young ladies, who are attending college to rest up from ten or fifteen years of school-teaching, and its tall young agriculturalists with restless Adam’s apples, whose idea of being socially interesting is to sit all evening in the same chair making a noise like one of those $7.78-suit dummies. That’s what made the class lotteries so interesting. The plow-chasers drew the prettiest girls in the class and the most accomplished fusser among the fellows usually drew a girl who would make the manager of a beauty parlor utter a sad shriek and throw up his job. Of course every one was bound in honor to take what came out of the hat. Nobody flinched and nobody renigged, but there was a lot of suppressed excitement and well-modulated regret.

I have been reasonably wicked since I left college. Once or twice I have slapped down a silver dollar or thereabout and have watched the little ball roll round and round a pocket that meant a wagon-load of tainted tin for me; and once in a while I have placed five dollars on a pony of uncertain ability and have watched him go from ninth to second before he blew up. But I never got half the heart-ripping suspense out of these pastimes that I did out of a certain few party drawings, when I waited for my name to come out and wondered, while I looked across the hall at the girl section, whether I was going to draw the one girl in the world, any one of four or five mighty interesting runners-up, or the fat little girl in the corner with ropy hair and the general look of a person who had had a bright idea a few years before and had been convalescing from it ever since.

Talk about excitement and consequences! Those drawings kept us on the jump until the parties were pulled off. Generally the proud beauties who had been drawn by the midnight-oil destroyers did not know them, and some one had to steer the said destroyers around to be introduced. What with dragging bashful young chaps out to call and then seeing that they didn’t freeze up below the ankles and get sick on the night of the party; and what with teaching them the rudiments of waltzing and giving them pointers on lawn ties; or how to charter a good seaworthy hack in case the girl lived on an unpaved street; and bracing up the fellows who had drawn blanks, and going to call on the blanks we had drawn and getting gloriously snubbed give me a wall-flower for thorns! well, it was no cinch to run a class party. But they were grand affairs, just the same, and promoted true fellowship, besides furnishing amusement for the whole college in the off season. And, besides, I always remember them with gratitude for what they did to Frankling.

You know there are two kinds of fussers in college. There is the chap like Petey Simmons, for instance, whose heart was a directory of Siwash girls; and there is the fellow who grabs one girl and stakes out claim boards all around her for the whole four years. That was Frankling’s style. He was what we always called a married man. He and Pauline Spencer were the closest corporation in college. They entered school in the same class, and he called on her every Friday night at Browning Hall and took her to every party and lecture and entertainment for the next three and a half years except, of course, the class parties. It was one of our chief delights to watch Frankling grind his teeth when some lowbrow as he called them drew her name. She always had rotten luck you never saw such luck! Once Ettleson drew her. He was a tall, silent farmer, who wore boots and a look of gloom; and he marched her through a mile of mud to the hall without saying a word, handed her to the reception committee and went over to a corner, where he sat all evening. But that wasn’t so bad as the Junior she drew. His name was Slaughter. His father had a dairy at the edge of Jonesville and Slaughter decided that, as the night was cold and rainy, a carriage would be appropriate. So he scrubbed up the milk wagon thoroughly, put a lot of nice, clean straw on the floor, hung a lantern from the top for heat and drove her down to the party in state. She was game and didn’t make a murmur, but Frankling made a pale-gray ass of himself. As I said, I never liked Frankling. He had a nasty, sneering way of looking at the whole school, except his own crowd. His father owned the locomotive works and he always went to Europe for his summers. He was one of those unnecessary individuals who are solemnly convinced that if you don’t do things just as they do something is lacking in your mind; and, though he was perfectly bred, he was only about half as pleasant to have around as a well-behaved hyena.

I never could see what Miss Spencer saw in him, unless it was the locomotives. As far as we could tell we never got much chance to judge she was a real nice girl. She was a little haughty and never had much to say, and always acted as if she was a princess temporarily off the job. But she was a good scout, and proved it at the class parties by making it as pleasant as she could for the nervous nobodies who took her; while the yellow streak in Frankling was so broad there wasn’t enough white in him to look like a collar. That’s why the whole college went crazy with delight over the Ole Skjarsen affair. Last station, ladies and gents. Story begins here.

When we were Seniors Ole Skjarsen was the chief embarrassment of the class. As a football player he was a wonder, but as a society fritterling he was one long catastrophe. He just couldn’t possibly get hep that was all. He was as companionable and as good-natured as a St. Bernard pup and just as inconvenient to have around. He dressed like a vaudeville sketch, and the number of things he could do in an hour, which are not generally done in low-vest and low-neck circles, was appalling. However we all loved Ole because of his grand and historic deeds on the team, and we took him to our parties and never so much as fell out of our chairs when he took off his coat in order to dance with more comfort and energy. The girls were as loyal as we were and danced with him as long as their feet held out, and we made them leather hero medals and really had a lot of fun out of the whole business all except Frankling. It just about killed him to have to mingle with Ole socially; and when the time for the Senior class party drew near he got so nervous that he called a meeting of a few of us fellows and made a big kick.

“I tell you, fellows, this has got to stop!” he declared. “We’ve encouraged this lumber-jack until he has gotten too fresh for any use. Why, he’ll ask any girl in the college to dance with him, and he goes and calls on them, too. Now, it’s up to us to show him his place. I’m dead against putting his name in the hat for the party. He’ll be sure to draw a girl who will be humiliated by having to go with him; and I have a little too much regard for chivalry and courtesy to allow him to do it. We’ll just have to hint to him that he’d better have another engagement the night of the class party, that’s all.”

Thereupon we all rose joyously up and told Frankling to go jump in the creek. And he called us muckers and declared we were ignorant of the first principles of social ethics. He said that Skjarsen might be near enough our level to be inoffensive, but as for him he declined to have anything to do with the class party. Thereupon we gave three cheers, and that made him so mad that he left the meeting and fell over three chairs trying to do it with speed and dignity. Altogether it was a most enjoyable occasion. We’d never gotten quite so much satisfaction out of him before.

The drawing took place the next week and, sure enough, Frankling declined to allow his name to be put in the hat. We put Ole’s name in and were prepared to have him draw a Class A girl; but what happened knocked the props out from under us. His name came fourth and he drew the mortgaged and unapproachable Miss Spencer.

We didn’t know whether to celebrate or prepare for trouble. It seemed reasonable that Miss Spencer would back up Frankling and reduce Ole to an icicle when he asked her to go with him. But the next morning, when we saw Frankling, we were so happy that we forgot to worry. He was one large paroxysm. I never saw so much righteous indignation done up in one bundle. He cornered the class officers and declared in passionate tones that they had committed the outrage of the century. They had insulted one of the finest young women in the college. They had made it advisable for all persons of culture to remain away from Siwash. The disgrace must not be allowed. He didn’t speak as a friend, but as a disinterested party who wanted justice done; and he proposed to secure it.

We took all this quite humbly and asked him why he didn’t see Ole himself and order him to unhand the lady. From the way he turned pale, we guessed he had done that already. Ole weighed two-twenty in his summer haircut and was quick-tempered. We then asked him why he didn’t buy Ole off. We also asked him why he didn’t shut down the college, and why he didn’t have Congress pass a law or something, and if his head had ever pained him before. He was tearing off his collar in order to answer more calmly and collectedly when Ole came into the room. Ole had combed his hair and shined his shoes, and he had on the pink-and-blue necktie that he had worn the month before to the annual promenade with a rented dress suit. He seemed very cheerful.

“Vell, fallers,” says he, “das leetle Spencer gal ban all rite. She say she go by me to das party. Ve ban goin’ stylish tu, Aye bet yu.” Then he saw Frankling and went over to him with his hand out. “Don’t yu care, Master Frankling,” he said, with one of his transcontinental smiles. “Aye tak yust sum good care by her lak Aye ban her steddy faller.” Phew!

Ole took Miss Spencer to the party. There isn’t a bit of doubt but that he took her in style. He put more care and exertion into the job than any of the rest of us and he got more impressive results. Ole has his ideas about dress. Ordinarily he wore one of those canned suits that you buy in the coat-and-pants emporiums, giving your age and waist measure in order to get a perfect fit. He wore a celluloid collar with it and a necktie that must have been an heirloom in the family; and he wore a straw hat most of the year. He wore each one till it blew away and then got another. This rig was good enough for Ole in ordinary little social affairs, but when it came to dances and receptions he blossomed out in evening clothes. He had made a bargain with a second-hand clothes-man downtown split his wood all winter for the use of a dress suit that had lost its position in a prominent family and was going downhill fast. You know how the tailors work the dress suit racket. They can’t exactly change the style of a suit it’s got to be open-faced and have tails but they work in some little improvement like a braid on or off, or an extra buttonhole, or a flare in the vest each year; so that a really bang-up-to-date chap would blush all over if he had to wear a last year’s model. I notice the automobile makers are doing the same stunt. They can’t improve their cars any more, so they put four doors on one year, cut ’em in two the next and take them off the year after.

This hasn’t anything to do with Ole except that that dress suit of his was behind the times one hundred and two counts. It had been a fat man’s suit in the first place. It fitted him magnificently at the shoulders. He and the suit began to leave each other from that point down. At the waist it looked like a deflated balloon. The top of the trousers fitted him about as snugly as a round manhole in the street. The legs flapped like the mainsail of a catboat that’s coming about. They ended some time before his own legs did and there was quite a little stretch of yarn sock visible before the big tan shoes began. Ole had two acres of feet and he polished his shoes himself, with great care. They were not so large as an ordinary ballroom, but somehow he used them so skillfully that they gave the effect of covering the entire space. Four times around Ole’s feet constituted a pretty fair encore at our dances; and I’ve seen him pen up as many as three couples in a corner with them when he got those feet tangled.

That was Ole’s formal costume. But he didn’t regard it with awe. Any one could wear a dress suit. It seemed to him that a Senior party to which he was to escort Miss Spencer was too important to pass airily off with the same old suit. He had another card up his sleeve.

“Aye ent tal yu,” he explained when we asked him anxiously what it was he proposed to wear. “Yust vait. Aye ban de hull show, Aye tank. Yu fallers yust put on your yumpin’-yack suits. Aye mak yu look lak torta cent.”

Of course we waited. We didn’t have anything else to do. We worried a little, but we had gotten used to Ole, anyway and what was the difference? It would be a little hard on Miss Spencer, but it would be magnificently horrible to Frankling, who considered that a collar of the wrong cut might endanger a man’s whole future career. So we resigned ourselves and attended to our own troubles.

The night of the party was a cold, clear January evening. There was snow on the ground and it was packed hard on the sidewalks. This was nuts for the oil-burners. They walked their girls to the hall. Four of the reckless ones clubbed together and hired a big closed carriage affair from the livery stable. It happened to be a pallbearers’ carriage during the daytime, but they didn’t know the difference and the girls didn’t tell them; and what you don’t know will never cause your poor old brain to ache. We frat fellows blew our hard-worked allowances for varnished cabs and thereby proved ourselves the biggest suckers in the bunch. To this day I can’t see why a girl who can dance all night, and can stroll all afternoon of a winter’s day, has to be hauled three blocks in a two-horse rig every time she goes to a party. The money we spent on cabs while I was at Siwash would have built a new stadium, painted every frat house in town and endowed a chair of United States languages. But, there! I’m on my pet hobby again. How it did hurt to pay for those hacks!

I got there late with my girl she was a shy little conservatory student, who evidently regarded conversation as against the rules and I found the usual complications that had to be sorted out at the beginning of every class party. Stiffy Short was sore. He was short five dances for his girl had been working on her program for a week and he accused the fellows of dodging because she couldn’t dance; and was threatening to be taken sick and spend the evening in the dressing room smoking cigarettes. Miss Worthington, one of our Class A girls, didn’t have a dance, because Tullings, who had drawn her, had presumed that she was to sit and talk with him all evening. Petey Simmons was in even worse. His girl couldn’t dance, but insisted on doing so. She had done it the year before, too. Petey had been training up for two weeks by tugging his dresser around the room. Then there was Glenallen. We always had to form a committee of national defense against Glenallen. He couldn’t dance, either, and he would insist on hitching his chair out towards the middle of the room. I’ve seen him throw as many as four couples in a night. And there was a telephone call from Miss Morse, class secretary and first-magnitude star. Her escort hadn’t shown up. He never did show up. When we went around to lynch him the next day he explained desperately that at the last minute he found he had forgotten to get a lawn necktie. You know how a little thing like a lawn necktie that ain’t can wreck an evening dress, unless you are an old enough head to cut up a handkerchief and fold the ends under.

We had gotten things pretty well straightened out before we discovered that Ole was missing. That would never do. If Miss Spencer needed rescuing we were the boys to do it. Three of us rushed down the stairs to send a carriage over to Browning Hall, and that minute Ole arrived at the party.

He had worn his very best the suit he was proudest of and the one he knew couldn’t be duplicated. It was his lumber-camp rig corduroy trousers, big boots and overshoes, red flannel shirt, canvas pea-jacket and fur cap. He came marching up the walk like the hero in a moving-picture show and we thought he was alone till he reached the door. Then we saw Miss Spencer. She was seated in state behind him on one of those hand-sledges the farmers use for hauling cordwood. There were evergreen boughs behind her and all around her, and she was so wrapped up in a huge camp blanket that all we could see of her was her eyes.

We gave Ole three cheers and carried Miss Spencer upstairs on the evergreen boughs. The two were the hits of the party. We never had a better one. The incident broke more ice than we could have chopped out in a month with all the dull-edged talk we had been handing around. Every one had a good laugh by way of a general introduction and then we all turned in and made things hum. The wall-flowers got plucked. Somebody taught the president of the Y. M. C. A. how to waltz and poor Henry Boggs forgot for two hours that he had hands and feet, and that they were beyond his control. It was a tremendous success; we were so enthusiastic by the time things broke up that we told the cabmen to go hang and all walked home to the Hall, the men fighting for a chance to pull on the sledge-rope with Ole.

Hold on, Sam. Put down your hat. This isn’t the end, thank you. It’s just the prologue. Of course we all expected, when Ole unloaded Miss Spencer at the Hall and she bade him good evening, and thanked him for her delightful time and so on, that the incident would be closed. Never dreamed of anything else. Lumber-jack suits and cordwood sledges are fine for novelties, but they can’t come back, you know once is enough. And that’s why we fell dead in rows when Ole, straw hat and all, walked over to Lab. from chapel with Miss Spencer the next day and she didn’t call for the police. We couldn’t have stared any harder if the college chapel had bowed and walked off with her. And we hadn’t recovered from the blow when Friday night rolled around and those of us who went to call at the Hall found Ole seated in Frankling’s particular corner, entertaining Miss Spencer with an average of one remark a minute, which, so far as we could hear, consisted generally of “Aye tank so” and “No, ma’am.”

By this time we had decided that Frankling was sulking and that Miss Spencer was showing him that if she wanted to be friendly with Ole, or the town pump, or the plaster statue of Victory in the college library, she had a perfect right to. I guess she showed him all right, too, for after a couple of weeks he surrendered and then the queerest rivalry Siwash had ever seen began. Frankling, son of the locomotive works, authority on speckled vests and cotillons, was scrapping with Ole Skjarsen, the cuffless wonder from the lumber camps, for the affections of the prettiest girl in college. No wonder we got so interested that spring that most of us forgot to fall in love ourselves.

I don’t to this day believe that Miss Spencer meant a word of it. I think that she was simply good-natured, in the first place, and that, when Frankling began to bite little semicircular pieces out of the air, she began mixing her drinks, so to speak, just for the excitement of the thing. Anyway, Frankling walked over to chapel with her and Ole lumbered back. Frankling took her to the basket-ball games and Ole took her to the Kiowa debate and slept peacefully through most of it. Frankling bought a beautiful little trotting horse and sleigh and took Miss Spencer on long rides. In Siwash, young people do not have chaperons, guards, nurses nor conservators. That was a knockout, we all thought; but it never feazed Ole. He invited Miss Spencer to go street-car riding with him and she did it. Some of us found them bumping over the line in one of the flat-wheeled catastrophes that the Jonesville Company called cars and Miss Spencer didn’t even blush. She bowed to us just as unconcernedly as if she wasn’t breaking all long-distance records for eccentricity in Siwash history.

Frankling dodged the whole college and got wild in the eyes. He looked like an eminent statesman who was being compelled to act as barker in a circus against his will. It must have churned up his vitals to do his sketch act with Ole; but when you have had one of those four-year cases, and it has gotten tangled up in your past and future, you can’t always dictate just what you are going to do. It was plain to see that Miss Spencer had Frankling hooked, haltered, hobbled, staked out, Spanish-bitted, wrapped up and stamped with her name and laid on the shelf to be called for; and it was just as evident that she considered he would be all the nicer if she walked around on him for a while and massaged his disposition a little with her little French heels.

So Frankling continued to divide time with Ole, and all the fellows whom he had insulted about their neckties and all the girls whom he had forgotten to dance with sat around in perfect content and watched the show.

We all thought it would wear out after a few weeks. But it didn’t. The semester recess came and, when college assembled again, Ole cut Frankling out for the athletic ball as neatly as if he had been in the girl game all his life. Frankling countered with the promenade two weeks later, but he went clear to the ropes when Miss Spencer came out one fine morning at chapel with Ole’s football charm the one he had won the year the team had annihilated two universities and seven assorted colleges. He came back gamely and decorated her with fraternity hatpins, cuff buttons, belt buckles and side combs; and on the strength of it he got three Friday evenings in a row. That might have jarred any one but Ole. But he came up smiling and took Miss Spencer to a Y. M. C. A. social, where he bought her four dishes of ice cream and had to be almost violently restrained from offering her the whole freezer.

Winter wore out and spring came. Frankling brought the whole resources of the locomotive works into play. He got a private car and took a party off to the Kiowa baseball game, with Miss Spencer as guest of honor. He bombarded her with imported candy and American beauties, and cluttered up the spring with a series of whist parties, which butted into the social calendar something frabjous. Ole plowed right along with his own peculiar style of argument. He met the private-car business with a straw ride and his prize offering was a hunk of spruce gum from his pine woods, as big as your two fists; and, so far as we could see, the gum got exactly the same warmth of reception as the candy though it didn’t disappear with anywhere near the rapidity.

As April went by, we Seniors got busy with the first awful preliminaries of Commencement. It began to be considered around college that Senior Day would settle the affair one way or the other. Senior Day is the last event of Commencement Week at Siwash and more engagements have been announced formally or otherwise that day than at any other time. If a Senior man and girl, who had been making a rather close study of each other, walked out on the campus together after the exercises and took in the corporation dinner at noon side by side, no one hesitated about offering congratulations. They might not be exactly due, but it was a sign that there was going to be an awful lot of nice-looking stationery spoiled by the two after the sad partings were said. Now we didn’t have a doubt that either Frankling or Ole would amble proudly down between the lilac rows on Class Day with Miss Spencer, under the good old pretense of helping her locate the dinner-tables a hundred yards away; and betting on the affair got pretty energetic. Day after day the odds varied. When Frankling broke closing-time rules at Browning Hall by a good thirty minutes some two-to-one money was placed on him. When Ole and Miss Spencer cut chapel the next day the odds promptly switched. You could get takers on either side at any time, but I think the odds favored Ole a little. You can’t help boosting your preferences with your good money. It’s like betting on your college team.

Commencement Week came and, although we were Seniors, we went through it without hardly noticing the scenery. We watched Ole and Frankling all through Baccalaureate, and when Ole won a twenty-yard dash across the church and over several of us, and marched down the street with Miss Spencer, it looked as if all was over but the Mendelssohn business. But Frankling had her in a box at the class play the next night. How could you pay any attention to the glorious threshold of life and the expiring gasps of dear college days with a race like that on!

Commencement was on Wednesday and Senior Day was Thursday. Up to Wednesday night it was an even break steen points all. One of the two had won. We hadn’t a doubt of it. But, if both men had been born poker players, drawing to fill, in a jack-pot that had been sweetened nine times, you couldn’t have told less to look at them. Frankling was as glum as ever and Ole had the same reenforced concrete expression of innocence that he used to wear while he was getting off the ball behind somebody’s goal line, after having carried it the length of the field. We were discussing the thing that night on the porch of the Eta Bita Pie house and were putting up a few final bets when Ole came up, carpet-bag in hand and his diploma under his arm, and bade us good-by. He was going out on the midnight train going away for good.

For a minute you could have heard the grass growing. If Ole was going away that night it meant just one thing: the cruel Miss Spencer had tossed him over and he was bumping the bumps downward into a cold and cheerless future. We were so sorry we could hardly speak for a minute. Then Allie Bangs got up and put his arm as far across Ole’s shoulder as it would go.

“By thunder, I’m sorry, old chap!” he said huskily.

For a man who had just had an air-castle fall on his neck, Ole didn’t talk very dejectedly. “Vy yu ban sorry?” he demanded. “Aye got gude yob St. Paul vay. De boss write me Aye skoll come Friday. Aye ent care to be late first t’ing.”

“But, Ole ” Bangs began. Then he stopped. You can’t bawl out a question about another man’s love affairs before a whole mob.

“Yu fallers ban fine tu me,” Ole began again. “Aye lak yu bully! Ven yu come by St. Paul, take Yim Hill’s railroad and come to Sven Akerson’s camp, femt’n mile above Lars Hjellersen’s gang. Aye ban boss of Sven’s camp now. Aye gat yu gude time and plenty flapyack.”

He turned to go. Allie and I got up and walked firmly down the walk with him. We were going to be relieved of our suspense if we had to buy the information.

“Now, Ole,” said Allie, grabbing his carpet-bag, “you know we’re not going to let you go down to the train alone. Besides, we want to know if everything is all right with you. You know we love you. We’re for you, Ole. You you and Miss Spencer parting good friends?”

“Yu bet!” said Ole enthusiastically. “She ban fine gur’rl, Aye tal yu. Sum day Aye ban sending her deerskin from lumber camp.”

Bangs braced up again. “Er you and Miss Spencer er not engaged, are you?” he said, the way a fellow goes at it when he is diving into cold water. Ole looked around in perfect good humor. “Get married by each odder?” he said. “Yee whiz! no, Master Bangs. She ban nice gur’rl. It ent any nicer in Siwash College. But she kent cook. She kent build fire in woodstove. She kent wash. She kent bake flatbrot. She kent make close. She yust ban purty, like picture. Vat for Aye vant to marry picture gallery? Aye ban tu poor faller fur picture gallery, Aye tank.”

“But, Ole,” says I, jumping in, “you’ve been rushing the girl all winter as if your life depended on it. What did you mean by that?”

Ole turned around patiently and sat down on the steps of the First Methodist Church, which happened to be passing just then. “Vell, Aye tal yu,” he explained. “Miss Spencer she ban nice tu me. She go tu class party ’nd ent give dam vat das Frankling faller say. Aye ent forget dat, Aye tal yu; ’nd, by yimminy Christmas! Aye show her gude time all right.”

We took Ole to the station and sat down to rest three times on the way back. So all that terrific performance was a reward for Miss Spencer! “O gratitude!” says the poet, “how many crimes are committed in thy name!”

We were so dazed that night that it didn’t occur to us to wonder why Miss Spencer stood for all the gratitude. But the next day, when the exercises were over, that young lady stepped down from the platform and was met by a tall chap whom she later introduced to us as a friend of the family from her home town. You can always spot these family friends by the way the girl blushes when she introduces them. Miss Spencer wore a fine new diamond ring and we knew what it meant. It was just another case where the girl came to school and the man stayed at home and built a seven-room house on a prominent corner four blocks from his hardware store and waited and tried not to get any more jealous than possible. I suppose Miss Spencer used Ole as a sort of parachute to let Frankling down easily at the last. Anyway, we wiped the whole affair off the slate after that. She wasn’t one of us, anyway. Made us shiver to think of her. What if one of us had sailed in the Freshman year and cut Frankling out!