Ralph Henry Barbour
(No description provided)
“I’d hate to live up here in summer, Bert,” said Ted Trafford, carefully easing his five feet and ten inches of tired, aching body to the window-seat and turning a perspiring face to the faint breeze that entered. “It must be hotter than Tophet.”
“Well, it’s up high enough to get the air, isn’t it?”
“Oh, it’s high enough, all right! If I had to climb those three flights of stairs a dozen times a day——”
“Wonder why slate stairs seem harder than others,” said Nick Blake, fanning himself with a magazine.
“Because they are harder, naturally.” Ted looked about the study. “It isn’t so bad, though, when you get here. And I dare say it’ll be fine in winter. You haven’t an open fireplace, though.”
“I had one last year in 19. It was only a bother. If I had a fire the ashes got all over the shop. Besides, it was always so warm in the room that when I wanted one I had to keep all the windows open. There’s dandy steam heat in Lothrop.”
“There is in Trow, but——”
“Oh, get out, Ted!” interrupted Nick. “I’ve been in your study when the thermometer wasn’t over fifty! Everyone knows that Trow’s a regular barn in cold weather.”
“Well, some days, when the wind’s a certain way——”
“Trow’s older than this, isn’t it?” asked Bert Winslow. He had yielded the window-seat to his visitors and was stretched out on the leather cushions of a Morris chair, the back of which he had lowered to the last notch. It was very warm in Number 29, for the study was on the top floor of the building and overhead the September sun had been shining all day on the slate roof. Then, too, since the Fall Term did not begin for two days yet, all but a few of the rooms were closed and what little breeze there was found scant circulation. Bert had opened the door and windows of 32, across the corridor, and that helped to some extent, but Lothrop Hall seemed to have caught all the heat of the past summer and to be bent on hoarding it on the top floor.
“Why, yes,” Ted was replying. “Trow was the first of the new buildings. It’s been built about twelve years, I think. I dare say the heating is better here and in Manning. Still, I never have any trouble keeping warm. You chaps over here are a pampered lot, anyway, with your common room and your library and your recreation room and—and your shower baths and all the rest of it! Sybarites, that’s what you are!”
“Don’t judge us all, Ted, by this palatial suite,” begged Nick. “Some of us live in monastic simplicity, in one bare little room.”
“I’ve seen your bare little room,” replied Ted, smiling. “You’re a lot of mollycoddles, the bunch of you. What time is it?”
Nick, stretched at the other end of the seat, his cheek on the windowsill and his gaze fixed on the shadowed stretches of the campus below, moved his hand toward his fob only to let it fall idly again.
“Look yourself, you lazy beggar,” he murmured.
“Seventeen to five,” said Bert, dropping his watch back with a sigh. Ted digested the information in silence for several minutes. Nick continued his somnolent regard of the campus and Bert thoughtfully tapped together the toes of his rubber-soled shoes.
“More than an hour to supper,” said Ted finally. “Not that I’m particularly hungry, though. It’s too hot to eat. Honest, fellows, I believe it’s hotter up here than it is in New York! If this last week is a sample of New England summer weather I don’t see why folks come here the way they do.”
“It’s the fine, pure air,” muttered Nick.
“Air! That’s the trouble. There isn’t any. This place is hotter than Broadway on the Fourth of July!”
“There’s a breeze now,” said Nick. “Get it?”
“Sure; it almost blew out the door,” replied Ted sarcastically. “Come on over to my place. It’s a heap cooler, I’ll bet.”
“I’m too tired to move,” protested his host. “We can go downstairs, if you like. I dare say it’s cooler in the common room.”
“Who’s with you this year?” asked Ted, his gaze traveling to the open door of the bedroom at the left.
“Fellow by the name of Ordway, or something. Comes from Maryland. Upper middler, I think.”
“How’d you happen to go in with him? Thought you liked rooming alone.”
“So I do, but I’ve had my eye on this suite ever since I came over from Manning. Gus Livingstone and I had it all fixed to take it together and applied last fall for it. Then, when Gus didn’t come back after winter vacation, I tried to get Nick to come in with me, and——”
“I wanted to hard enough,” said Nick, without turning, “but my dad kicked like a steer. He said seven hundred was too much for his pocket.”
“Wow!” exclaimed Ted. “Is that what this stands you? Seven hundred each?”
Bert nodded. “Yes, it’s high in price and elevation too.”
“What do you pay downstairs, Nick?”
“Three hundred. That’s what you pay, isn’t it?”
“Two-fifty. Seven hundred for room and board, a hundred and fifty for tuition and a couple of hundred for incidentals; total, ten hundred and fifty a year! Say, Bert, I’ll bet your old man will be mighty glad when you’re through here!”
“Then it’ll be college,” answered Bert, “and I guess that won’t be much cheaper. We do cost our folks a lot of money, though, don’t we?”
“We’re worth it, though,” said Nick. “At least, some of us are.”
Ted Trafford laughed. “I’m worth two-fifty and you’re worth three, eh? And Bert’s worth seven. Well, it’s a peach of a suite, all right, Bert, but I’d just as lief have my dive. Besides, I’ve got it to myself. When you have another chap with you he always wants to cut up when you want to plug. Not for mine, thanks!”
“Single blessedness for me, too,” murmured Nick. “When I was in Manning in junior year I roomed with young Fessenden and we nearly got fired because we were always scrapping. He was a quarrelsome little brute!”
“What happened to him? Did you kill him finally?”
“No, but I wanted to lots of times. He quit the next year. Went to some school in Pennsylvania. His folks wanted him nearer home, he said. I don’t see why they should!”
“Hope you like your new chum, Bert,” said Ted. “Broadway’s a funny name, though, eh?”
“Ordway,” Bert corrected. “I dare say we’ll get along. I have a nice disposition.”
Nick giggled and Bert gazed across at him speculatively. “Of course everyone knows why Nick rooms alone,” he added. “He’s too mean to live with.”
Nick raised his head to answer, but thought better of it. A vagrant breeze crept through the windows and the boys said, “A-ah!” in ecstatic chorus.
“Listen,” said Nick, suddenly propping himself up on the cushions. “I’ve got a good scheme!”
“Shoot!” replied Ted, yawning widely.
“After supper we’ll beat it down to the pool and go in! Will you?”
“Ugh! Mud and frogs!” said Bert.
“Mud and frogs your eye! It’s dandy if you don’t go to wading around. We don’t have to stay in the pool, anyway. Rules don’t apply before term begins. We can go in the river. No one will see us.”
“Safest thing,” said Ted, “is to find a canoe and upset, the way we did a couple of years ago. Pete used to go crazy and threaten to report us, but he couldn’t prove it wasn’t an accident.”
“Aren’t any canoes out yet, I guess,” said Bert. “And the boat house is locked.”
“Never mind your old canoes,” said Nick. “That’s an underhand scheme, anyway. Fair and open’s my motto! Oh, say, but that water’s going to feel good!”
“That isn’t such an awfully rotten idea,” said Ted. “I’m blessed if I know where to look for my trunks, though.”
“You don’t need ’em. It’ll be dark by half-past seven.”
“Not with a moon shining, you silly chump,” said Bert. “You can take a pair of running trunks of mine, Ted. Only, worse luck, I’ll have to unpack that box over there.” He pulled himself from the chair with a sigh of resignation and kicked experimentally at the lid of the packing case. “Wonder where I can find a hatchet,” he muttered. “Got anything I can bust this lid off with, Nick?”
“Got a screwdriver I use on my typewriter,” responded Nick helpfully.
“What time is it?” inquired Ted again.
“Find out, you lazy beast,” replied Bert. “Tell me how to get this thing open, you chaps.”
“Pick it up and drop it on the floor a few times,” said Ted.
“Bore a hole and put a dynamite cartridge in,” suggested Nick.
“Oh, all right, then you go without the trunks,” said Bert, returning to his chair. “I’d like to know why I pounded a million dollars’ worth of nails into it, anyway.” There was no solution forthcoming, it seemed. Nick had returned to his study of the world outside and Ted had picked up the discarded magazine and was idly looking at the pictures. Bert sighed again and stretched his arms overhead. Then he said “Ouch!” suddenly and loudly and ruefully rubbed a shoulder. Ted looked over and grinned.
“Sore?” he asked.
“Sore as a boil! You wouldn’t think a fellow would get so soft in summer, swimming and playing tennis and everything. I wish Bonner would let us off tomorrow. I think he might. It wouldn’t hurt him to give us a day’s rest.”
“He’s going to give us the afternoon off,” replied Ted. “Only morning practice tomorrow. You can thank me for it, Bert. It was my pretty little thought.”
“He wouldn’t have seen me on the field tomorrow, anyway,” remarked Nick. “I’m going down to the junction to meet Guy at three-something. Come on with me.”
“I wouldn’t make that trip in this weather for the King of England, much less Guy Murtha,” responded Bert impressively.
“I’ll buy you ice cream,” tempted Nick. Bert shook his head.
“Will you come, Ted?” asked Nick.
“I will—not! I love Guy like a brother, but——”
“Oh, you fellows make me weary!” sighed Nick. “No sporting blood at all! No——”
“Is that your idea of sporting?” jeered Ted. “Get on a hot, stuffy little one-horse train and dawdle down to Needham Junction, four miles away, in something like half an hour? I’ve made that trip once this fall and, Fortune aiding me, I shan’t make it again!”
“Come on to supper,” said Bert. “It’s almost a quarter of. It will be cooler over there on the steps than it is here, too.”
“Just when I was beginning to get comfortable,” mourned Nick. “Say, Ted, did you do this last year?”
“Sure! Do what?”
“Come up for early practice.”
“I did. And we had ten days of it last fall instead of only a week. You fellows needn’t kick!”
“I do kick, though, Teddy, old scout! Look here, you! I gave up a whole week of the best sort of fun at Deal Beach to come up here and frizzle and fry in my juices and chase a contemptible football over a sun-smitten cow-pasture! Needn’t kick, eh? Why, man, back there there’s a nice cool breeze off the ocean and a band playing moosics and piles of eats and—and nothing to do but play around! And just because I’m—I’m patriotic enough and unselfish enough to leave all that you lie there like a ton of bricks and tell me I needn’t kick! I do kick! I’m kicking!”
“I hear you,” murmured Ted. “Go on kicking. Nobody’s going to miss you if you go back to Deal Beach tomorrow. We could have got on well enough without you, anyhow. You were simply asked because we thought you’d feel hurt if you weren’t.”
“I like your nerve!” gasped Nick. “My word! Who’s been doing the work for five days out there? Trying to get drive into you chaps is like pulling teeth! Why, you miserable sandy-haired——”
“Oh, come on,” begged Bert. “I’m getting hungry. Anyone want to wash up? Come along if you do. You’ll have to wipe your hands on your handkerchiefs, though. They haven’t given us any towels yet.”
“What’s the good of washing if we’re going in swimming later?” asked Nick, sprawling off the window-seat.
“Because for once, old son, you’re dining with gentlemen,” Ted answered, gripping the smaller youth by the shoulders and propelling him towards the door in the wake of Bert.
“Honest?” wailed Nick. “I’d much rather dine with you, Ted!”