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WINNING HIS "W"

A Story of Freshman Year at College

by

EVERETT T. TOMLINSON

M.A. Donohue & Company
Chicago New York

1904







PREFACE


In this book I have endeavored to relate the story of a boy's early
experiences in college life - a boy who was neither unnaturally good nor
preternaturally bad, wholesome, earnest, impulsive, making just such
mistakes as a normal boy would make, and yet earnest, sincere, and
healthy. We all have known just such boys and are grateful that they are
neither uncommon nor unknown.

Perhaps it may add a little to the interest of this tale if it is stated
that many of the events described in it actually occurred. I have not
tagged a "moral" upon it, for if the story itself shall not bear its own
moral, then the addition will not add to it.

EVERETT T. TOMLINSON.

Elizabeth, New Jersey.




CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I. THE OPENING TERM

II. PETER JOHN'S ARRIVAL

III. NEW FRIENDS AND NEW EXPERIENCES

IV. A CLOUD OF WITNESSES

V. UNSOUGHT ATTENTIONS

VI. A RACE IN THE DARKNESS

VII. SPLINTER'S QUESTIONS

VIII. THE PARADE

IX. THE WALK WITH MOTT

X. A VISITOR

XI. THE PERPETUAL PROBLEM

XII. THE MEET

XIII. WAGNER'S ADVICE

XIV. THE ADVICE FOLLOWED

XV. A REVERSED DECISION

XVI. TELEGRAMS

XVII. PETER JOHN'S DOWNFALL

XVIII. AN ALARMING REPORT

XIX. A RARE INTERVIEW

XX. A CRISIS

XXI. THE EXAMINATION

XXII. A FRESH EXCITEMENT

XXIII. THE RUSH TO COVENTRY CENTER

XXIV. THE MYSTERY OF THE CANES

XXV. ON THE TRAIL

XXVI. ST. PATRICK'S DAY

XXVII. CONCLUSION





CHAPTER I

THE OPENING TERM


"I've got a letter from Peter John."

"What's the trouble with him? He ought to have been here yesterday or
the day before."

"I'm afraid Peter John never'll be on time. He doesn't seem to have
taken that in his course. He'd never pass an 'exam' in punctuality."

"What does he want?"

"The poor chap begs us to meet him at the station."

"What train?"

"The two-seventeen."

"Then we've no time to waste. Is he afraid he'll be lost?"

"He's afraid, all right."

"What's he afraid of?"

"Everything and everybody, I guess. Poor chap."

Will Phelps laughed good-naturedly as he spoke, and it was evident that
his sympathy for "Peter John" was genuine. His friend and room-mate,
Foster Bennett, was as sympathetic as he, though his manner was more
quiet and his words were fewer; their fears for their friend were
evidently based upon their own personal knowledge.

For four years the three young men had been classmates in the Sterling
High School, and in the preceding June had graduated from its course of
study, and all three had decided to enter Winthrop College. The entrance
examinations had been successfully passed, and at the time when this
story opens all had been duly registered as students in the incoming
class of the college.

Foster Bennett and Will Phelps were to be room-mates, and for several
days previous to the September day on which the conversation already
recorded had taken place they had been in the little college town,
arranging their various belongings in the room in Perry Hall, one of the
best of all the dormitory buildings. The first assembling of the college
students was to occur on the morrow, and then the real life upon which
they were about to enter was to begin.

The two boys had come to Winthrop together, the parents of both having
decided that it was better to throw the young students at once upon
their own resources rather than to accompany them, reserving their
visits for a later time when the first novelty of the new life would be
gone.

And on this September day the novelty certainly was the most prominent
element in the thoughts of both boys. The task of arranging their
various belongings in their new rooms had kept both so busy that
thoughts of the homes they had left were of necessity somewhat rare, and
the vision of the family life in which they had been so vital a part had
not as yet come to take the place in their minds which it soon would
occupy.

At the hotel where they had been staying there were many other boys who
were in a predicament not unlike their own, but the very fact that all
were alike new to the life and its surroundings had made every one
somewhat diffident and the warm friendships and cordial relations that
soon were to be formed were as yet not begun.

Will Phelps and Foster Bennett, however, had been so completely taken up
with their own immediate tasks that they had little thought for other
things. At the time when this story opens their study room was ready for
callers, as Will expressed it, and the adjoining sleeping rooms were in
a fair way for occupancy. Indeed, the boys planned that very night to
sleep in the dormitory, and the experience was looked forward to as one
which they both would enjoy.

Will Phelps, a sturdy young fellow of eighteen, of medium height, with
strong body and a bright, keen expression in his dark eyes, had been the
most popular of all the boys in the high school from which he had
recently graduated. Not over-fond of study, he had somewhat neglected
his tasks until his final year, and though he had then begun to work
more seriously, his late effort had not entirely atoned for the neglect
of the preceding years. An only son and not rigidly trained in his home,
he had not formed the habits of study which his more serious-minded
room-mate, Foster Bennett, possessed. But almost every one who met the
young student was drawn to him by the fascination of his winning ways,
and realized at once the latent possibilities for good or ill that were
his. His success would depend much upon his surroundings, and though
Will was sublimely confident in his ability to meet and master whatever
opposed him, it nevertheless had been a source of deep satisfaction to
his father and mother that he was to room with his classmate, Foster
Bennett, for Foster was of a much more sedate disposition than his
friend. Taller than Will by three inches, as fond as he of certain
athletic sports, still Foster was one whom enthusiasm never carried away
nor impulse controlled. When people spoke of him they often used the
word "steady" to describe him. Not so quick nor so brilliant as Will, he
was not able to arouse the response which his room-mate seldom failed to
elicit, nor was his promise in certain ways so great. Will might do
brilliant things, but of Foster it was said that 'one always knew where
to find him.' Naturally, the two boys in a measure complemented each
other, and their friendship was strong and lasting.

Peter John Schenck - no one ever thought of referring to him by another
term than "Peter John" - the third member of the high-school class to
which reference has already been made, was a boy who every morning had
driven into the little city of Sterling from his country home, and in
his general appearance was decidedly unlike either of his classmates.
The influences of his home had been of a different character from those
which had surrounded his two friends. Not that the love for him had been
less, but certain elements of refinement had been lacking and his
familiarity with the ways of the world was much less. Besides, his
father had been in humbler circumstances, and Peter John was to room in
college in Leland Hall, one of the oldest of the dormitories, where the
room rent was much less than in Perry Hall and more in accord with
Peter John's pocket. In school he had been made the butt of many a joke,
but his fund of good nature had never rebelled and his persistence was
never broken. Tall, ungainly, his trousers seemed to be in a perpetual
effort to withdraw as far as possible from his boots, while his hands
and wrists apparently were continually striving to evade the extremities
of his coat sleeves. His face was freckled, not the ordinary freckles
produced by the heat of the sun, but huge splotches that in color almost
matched his auburn-tinted hair - at least his sister was prone to declare
that the color of his hair was "auburn," though his less reverent
schoolmates were accustomed to refer to him as a "brick-top."

But Peter John was undeterred by the guying of his mates, and when he
had first declared his intention to go to college his words had been
received as a joke. But it was soon discovered that in whatever light
they might be received by others, to Peter John himself they were the
expression of a fixed purpose; and so it came to pass that he too had
passed the entrance examinations and was duly enrolled as a member of
the freshman class in Winthrop College.

When his determination had been accepted by his mates, some of them had
made use of their opportunities to enlarge upon the perils that lay
before him - perils for the most part from the terrible sophomores who
were supposed to be going about seeking their prey with all the
fierceness of a roaring lion. Peter John had listened to the marvelous
tales that were poured into his ears, but so far as his expression of
face was concerned, apparently they had been without effect.
Nevertheless, deep in his heart Peter John had stored them all and his
fear of the class above him had increased until at last just before he
departed from home he had written to his friend Will Phelps informing
him of his fears and begging that he and Foster would meet him at the
station and protect him from the fierce onslaughts, which, he confessed,
he expected would await him upon his arrival. This letter Will Phelps
had found at the little post office when he made inquiries for his mail,
and upon his return to his room it had provided the basis for the
conversation already recorded.

"We'd better go right down to the station, then, Will," Foster had said.

"All right. Peter John will be in mortal terror if he shouldn't find us
there. He probably believes the sophs will have a brass band and knives
and guns and will be drawn up on the platform ready to grab him just the
minute he steps off the car."

"Not quite so bad as that," laughed Foster. "But we'll have to help the
poor chap out."

"Sure. Come on, then," called Will as he seized his cap and started
toward the hallway.

"Hold on a minute. Wait till I lock the door."

"'Lock the door?' Not much! You mustn't do that."

"Why not?"

"It isn't polite."

"What are you talking about?" demanded Foster.

"Just what I'm telling you. Freshmen mustn't lock their doors, that's
not the thing. The janitor told me not to, because the sophs will take
it as a challenge to break it in. He said the college had to put sixty
new locks this summer on the doors here in Perry."

"Looks as if something had happened for a fact," said Foster slowly, as
he glanced at some huge cracks that were plainly visible in the panels.
"Sure 't'll be safe?"

"It'll be all right. The janitor says so. Come on! Come on, or we'll be
too late!"

The two boys ran swiftly down the stairway (their room was on the third
floor of the dormitory) and soon were on the street which was directly
in front of the building. As they walked rapidly in the direction of the
station, which was a half-mile or more distant from the college
buildings, the sight which greeted their eyes was one that stirred the
very depths of their hearts. The very buildings themselves were
impressive, some old and antiquated, dating back a century or more and
venerable with age, and others new and beautiful, the recent gifts of
some loyal alumni. From the huge clock in the tower of the chapel rang
out the chimes which announced that the hour of two was come and gone.
The beautifully kept grounds, the stately buildings, the very leaves on
the huge elms that grew about the grounds were all impressive at the
time to the boys to whom the entire picture was new.

In the wide street that led directly through the midst of the college
buildings, were passing young men of their own age, some of whom would
suddenly stop and grasp with fervor the hands of some students just
returned from the long summer vacation. From the windows of the
dormitories could be seen the faces of students who were leaning far out
and shouting their words of greeting to friends on the street below. The
September sun was warm and mellow, and as it found its way through the
thick foliage it also cast fantastic shadows upon the grass that seemed
to dance and leap in the very contagion of the young life that abounded
on every side. The very air was almost electric and the high hills in
the distance that shut in the valley and provided a framework for the
handiwork of nature, lent an additional charm to which Will Phelps was
unconsciously responding.

"I tell you, Foster, this is great! I'm glad I'm here!" he exclaimed.

"Are you?" replied Foster in his more subdued manner. "Well, I'm glad
too."

The scene upon the platform of the station was as animated and inspiring
as that about the college grounds. Groups of students were here awaiting
the coming of friends, and yet their impatience was hidden by the
enthusiasm of the moment. One group, consisting of twenty or more young
men, particularly interested Will, for their noise and exuberance seemed
to know no bounds. At last a young man, evidently a student though
slightly older than the most in the group, approached them and said:
"Here, you sophs! You're making too much noise. Children should be seen,
not heard."

"All right, pop," responded one; and for a time the noise decreased. But
it was not long before it broke forth afresh and became even more
violent than before. Both Will and Foster were curiously watching the
group; they almost instinctively looked upon them as natural enemies and
yet were compelled to laugh at their antics.

"Here you, taxi-driver," suddenly called out one of the sophomores
advancing from the midst of his classmates and approaching one of the
cabs, a line of which were drawn up near the platform.

"Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Here you are! Here you are! This way!" responded a
half-dozen of the taxi-drivers.

"Be still!" replied the young man solemnly to the noisy men. "Can't you
see I'm engaged with John? Now, John, tell me honestly, are you free?"

"Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Take you anywhere ye say," responded the driver
glibly.

"You're sure you're at liberty?"

"Yes, sir. Yes, sir."

"All right, then. I'm glad to hear it. I've a great respect for liberty.
That's all I wanted to know; thank you," he added, politely bowing; then
turning to his classmates he said: "I say, fellows, make it three for
liberty!"

The cheers were given with a will, and then the leader added solemnly,
"Let's make it three for our class, the best class that ever entered old
Winthrop! Now then!"

These cheers also were loudly given, but they ceased abruptly when it
was seen that the train, for whose coming they had been waiting, was now
approaching.




CHAPTER II

PETER JOHN'S ARRIVAL


Before the rumbling train halted at the station, there was a rush of
students toward it, all eager to welcome the incoming crowd, and every
one apparently being desirous of being the first to greet his friends.
Upon the platforms of the cars also crowds of students were to be seen,
waving their hats in the air or standing with their traveling bags in
their hands, all as eager as the boys at the station to be foremost in
the reunion scene.

Will Phelps and his room-mate stood a little back from the assembly and
watched the proceedings with an interest which neither could conceal. It
was all so stimulating, this animation and bustle and manifest eagerness
in renewing the college life, and to feel that they too were to have a
share in the possessions of these young men, scarcely one of whom was
known to them personally, was in itself sufficient to quicken their
pulses and arouse all the dormant forces of their nature. The train was
a long one and yet from every car came pouring forth the stream of
students and the excitement continued for several minutes.

Suddenly a shout went up from the crowd and there was a rush of students
toward the rear car. "There's Baker! Good old Sam! Hurrah for the
captain!" were among the cries that could be heard as the students
surged toward the platform, from which a sturdy young man could be seen
descending, apparently unmindful of the interest his coming had aroused
and striving to be indifferent to the cheers that greeted his arrival.

Will Phelps and Foster Bennett almost unconsciously moved with the
throng though they were not fully aware of the cause of the sudden
interest of the students. "It may be that he's the captain of the
football team," said Will in a low voice to his companion. "At any rate
the captain's name is Baker and probably this is the man."

Foster nodded his head but made no other reply as he stood watching the
young man as he stepped down from the platform. There could be no
question as to who he was, for the conquering hero was writ large upon
his powerful frame and the universal deference of the student body could
be accounted for only by the fact that a leader in Winthrop had arrived.

"Look there, Will," said Foster suddenly. "There's Peter John."

"Where?"

"Right behind Baker. Just coming out of the door. See him?"

"Yes," responded Will as he obtained a glimpse of his classmate just as
he was emerging from the doorway. Travel-stained, his hat pushed back on
his head, his eyes wildly staring about at the crowd, a huge carpet-bag
in his hand, his appearance certainly would have attracted the attention
of the spectators had it not been that their interest was apparently
centered in the mighty captain of the football team and they had no
thought for any one else.

Just as Baker stepped down, Peter John emerged from the car directly
behind the captain, and a cheer louder than any that before had been
given rose from the assembly.

Poor Peter John! Nervous and excited, conscious only of himself and his
strange surroundings, the startled freshman had no other thought than
that the cheers were meant for him and doubtless were intended as a war
cry from those enemies of whom he had heard such marvelous tales - the
sophomores. Wild-eyed, for a moment he seemed to be well-nigh paralyzed.
He stood motionless and gazed out at the surging mass of students almost
as if he were minded to turn back into the car and escape from the
threatening peril. But the pressure from behind was too strong to permit
him to carry out his intention and he was compelled to move forward. As
yet he had not seen his two waiting friends and his feeling of utter
loneliness swept over him afresh. From the lowest step he was about to
move when another mighty shout went up from the assembly and Peter John
looked helplessly about him as if he were convinced that his doom was
sealed and for him there was to be no escape.

Suddenly he darted from the midst of the crowd, sending two or three
young men who chanced to be in his way sprawling, and with his quaint
carpet-bag still tightly grasped in his hand fled directly back over the
railway ties. He had not gone far before his flight was perceived and a
shout of laughter and derision arose. Even the mighty Baker was ignored
in the fresh excitement and instantly a crowd of students started in
pursuit of the fleeing freshman.

"Hi, there! Stop, freshman! Wait a minute; we'll help carry your bag!
Look at the sprinter! Going home? Good-bye! Good-bye!" were among the
derisive cries that he heard. There could be no mistake, the attention
of the entire student body was upon him, he was convinced, and his speed
increased. His long legs, his flying coat tails, his flapping
carpet-bag, indeed his entire appearance was such that shrieks of
laughter arose from his pursuers, but Peter John never once glanced
behind him. Every fresh call served to increase his terror. Life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were about to be taken from him
and his sole hope depended upon his own exertions. It was do or die, and
Peter John preferred the former.

In a brief time the good-natured crowd abandoned its pursuit, and Peter
John Schenck was left to continue his lonely flight. Will Phelps and
Foster Bennett had joined in the laughter at first, for the ridiculous
flight of their classmate was well-nigh irresistible; but when it soon
became apparent that Peter John's terror was real and that he firmly
believed the entire college was in swift pursuit of him, their attitude
changed.

"It's too bad, Will," said Foster. "The poor chap is scared almost to
death."

"We can't help it. He'll have to learn some things, if not others,"
laughed Will.

"They're coming back," suggested Foster, as the pursuit was abandoned
and the students laughing boisterously returned to the station.

Peter John, however, was still fleeing and his long strides and his
wildly flapping carpet-bag could be distinctly seen as the frightened
freshman sped up the track. The body of students, however, had now
turned into the street that led back to the college grounds, and
apparently Peter John's wild flight was already forgotten.

"We must go after him," said Foster thoughtfully.

"Oh, leave him alone," replied Will. "He'll come back all right."

"You go up to the room and I'll go and look him up."

"Not much! If you go, then I go too! I may be the next victim and I
don't intend to be offered up alone. Come on, or he'll be clear back in
Sterling before we find him."

Will laughed as he spoke, and at once the two boys started up the track
in the direction in which their classmate had fled. He could not be seen
now for a bend in the road had concealed him from sight, and for a time
his two friends did not dare to run, being fearful that they too might
attract an undue amount of attention and bring upon themselves the many
ills from which they were striving to save their friend.

Apparently their departure from the station had not drawn the attention
of any one, and, as they became convinced that they were not being
followed, their own speed increased until they too had passed the bend
in the road, when they began to run swiftly. Nothing could be seen of
Peter John, and when they had gone a considerable distance Will Phelps
stopped and whistled.

At first there was no response, but when the signal had been thrice
repeated both boys heard the voice of their friend apparently coming
from behind the bushes growing on the bank directly beside them.

"All alone, Will?" called Peter John timidly.

"Yes. Yes. Where are you, Peter John?" responded Will, peering about
him, but as yet unable to determine where his friend was hiding.

"Here I am."

"Where's that?"

"Right here."

"Come out here where we are. Stand up like a little man and be counted."

"Sure nobody's with you?"

"Foster's here, that's all."

Slowly Peter John arose from his hiding-place and peered anxiously about
him. "It's all right. Come on!" called Will encouragingly. Thus bidden,
Peter John stepped forth, still holding tightly in his grasp his
precious carpet-bag. Will Phelps did not even laugh nor did he have any
inclination to do so as he perceived how genuine was the suffering of
the terrified boy.

"You needn't be afraid now, Peter John," he said soothingly. "You're all
right."

"That was a close call."

"Call for what?" demanded Foster sharply. Will turned and looked in
surprise at his room-mate, for the tone of his voice was very unlike
that which he had used when he had insisted that they should go to the
aid of their classmate.

"I tell you they were after me!" said Peter John, wiping his brow with a
huge handkerchief as he spoke.

"Who were after you?" demanded Foster still more sharply.

"The sophomores."

"Don't you believe it!"

"Why, they'd have got me if I hadn't put in my prettiest."

"Nobody would have paid any attention to you if you hadn't run. You drew
it all on yourself and have no one else to blame."

"Guess you weren't there when I landed! They gave such a yell when I
started from the cars as I never heard before in all my born days."

"Did you think they were yelling for you?"

"Of course I did. I knew they'd be waiting for me."

"Peter John, you've made a fool of yourself. There wasn't a soul there
except Will and me that knew there was such a fellow in all the world as
Peter John Schenck. Everybody in college will know it now, though."

"What made 'em yell so, then?" demanded Peter John.

"They weren't yelling for you at all. They were cheering for Baker, the


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