第36章 Chapter XVI(1)
Ramsey was not quite athlete enough for any of the 'varsity teams; neither was he an antagonist safely encountered, whether in play or in earnest, and during the next few days he taught Fred Mitchell to be cautious. The chaffer learned that his own agility could not save him from Ramsey, and so found it wiser to contain an effervescence which sometimes threatened to burst him. Ramsey as a victim was a continuous temptation, he was so good-natured and yet so furious.
After Commencement, when the roommates had gone home, Mr. Mitchell's caution extended over the long sunshiny months of summer vacation; he broke it but once and then in well-advised safety, for the occasion was semi-public. The two were out for a stroll on a July Sunday afternoon; and up and down the street young couples lolled along, young families and baby carriages straggled to and from the houses of older relatives, and the rest of the world of that growing city was rocking and fanning itself on its front veranda.
"Here's a right pretty place, isn't it, Ramsey? don't you think?"
Fred remarked innocently, as they were passing a lawn of short-clipped, bright green grass before a genial-looking house, fresh in white paint and cool in green-and-white awnings. A broad veranda, well populated just now, crossed the front of the house; fine trees helped the awnings to give comfort against the sun; and Fred's remark was warranted. Nevertheless, he fell under the suspicion of his companion, who had begun to evince some nervousness before Fred spoke.
"What place do you mean?"
"The Yocum place," said Mr. Mitchell. "I hear the old gentleman's mighty prosperous these days. They keep things up to the mark, don't they, Ramsey?"
"I don't know whether they do or whether they don't," Ramsey returned shortly.
Fred appeared to muse regretfully. "It looks kind of ~empty~ now, though," he said, "with only Mr. and Mrs. Yocum and their three married daughters, and eight or nine children on the front porch!"
"You wait till I get you where they can't see us!" Ramsey warned him, firecely.
"You can't do it!" said Fred, manifesting triumph. "We'll both stop right here in plain sight of the whole Yocum family connection till you promise not to touch me."
And he halted, leaning back implacably against the Yocum's iron fence. Ramsey was scandalized.
"Come on!" he said, hoarsely. "Don't stop ~here~!"
"I will, and if you go on alone I'll yell at you. You got to stand right here with all of 'em lookin' at you until--"
"I promise! My heavens, come ~on~!"
Fred consented to end the moment of agony; and for the rest of the summer found it impossible to persuade Ramsey to pass that house in his company. "I won't do it!" Ramsey told him. "Your word of honour means nothin' to me; you're liable to do anything that comes into your head, and I'm gettin' old enough to not get a reputation for bein' seen with people that act the idiot on the public streets.
No, sir; we'll walk around the block--at least, we will if you're goin' with ~me~!"
And to Fred's delight, though he concealed it, they would make this detour.
The evening after their return to the university both were busy with their trunks and various orderings and disorderings of their apartment, but Fred several times expressed surprise that his roommate should be content to remain at home; and finally Ramsey comprehended the implications. Mrs. Meigs's chandelier immediately jingled with the shock of another crash upon the floor above.
"You let me up!" Fred commanded thickly, his voice muffled by the pile of flannels, sweaters, underwear, and raincoats wherein his head was being forced to burrow. "You let me up, darn you! ~I~ didn't say anything." And upon his release he complained that the attack was unprovoked. "I didn't say anything on earth to even hint you might want to go out and look around to see if anybody in particular had got back to college yet. I didn't even mention the ~name~ of Dora Yo-- Keep off o' me! My goodness, but you are sensitive!"
As a matter of fact, neither of them saw Dora until the first meeting of the Lumen, whither they went as sophomores to take their pleasure in the agony of freshmen debaters. Ramsey was now able to attend the Lumen, not with complacence but at least without shuddering over the recollection of his own spectacular first appearance there. He had made subsequent appearances, far from brilliant yet not disgraceful, and as a spectator, at least, he usually felt rather at his ease in the place. It cannot be asserted, however, that he appeared entirely at his ease this evening after he had read the "Programme" chalked upon the large easel blackboard beside the chairman's desk. Three "Freshmen Debates" were announced, and a "Sophomore Oration," this last being followed by the name, "D. Yocum, '18." Ramsey made immediate and conspicuous efforts to avoid sitting next to his roommate, but was not so adroit as to be successful. However, Fred was merciful: the fluctuations of his friend's complexion were an inspiration more to pity than to badinage.
The three debates all concerned the "Causes of the War in Europe," and honours appeared to rest with a small and stout, stolidly "pro-German" girl debater, who had brought with her and translated at sight absa-loot proofs (so she called them), printed in German, that Germany had been attacked by Belgium at the low instigation of the envious English. Everybody knew it wasn't true; but she made an impression and established herself as a debater, especially as her opponent was quite confounded by her introduction of printed matter.
When the debates and the verdicts were concluded, the orator appeared, and Fred's compassion extended itself so far that he even refrained from looking inquisitively at the boy in the seat next to his; but he made one side wager, mentally--that if Ramsey had consented to be thoroughly confidential just then, he would have confessed to feeling kind o' funny.