Spring Term, 1917
MOSTLY, yesterday was rotten. I progressed from gloom to gloom. My hours of work have been reduced to four a week, the least possible number, unless indeed all the undergraduates go. For still they go. On my way to lunch I was stopped near the railway station by a breathless boy. It was one Scotty, a senior, who had been cherubic as a freshman such a short time ago.
‘Will you give me a recommendation? Please, sir! Mr. So-and-so said he would, but I can’t find him, and I’m going on this train in ten minutes! ’
The train was puffing mildly, preliminary to departure.
‘Ambulance?’ I asked, ‘or mosquitofleet, or —’
‘Training-camp,’ he broke in. ‘Here’s pen and paper.’
So I went over to the news-stand and wrote, the manager of it contributing a blotter.
‘ It gives me pleasure to recommend,’ I wrote to some unknown captain or colonel or knight-at-arms —
‘ Scotty, are you a man of good moral character?’
‘Well, — I guess you might say so.’
‘But,’ I objected, ‘what about that little game I caught you up in — that little game of bridge not altogether for fun? Does a man of good character gamble?’
‘It was such a little game,’ he said, ‘and only once in a long while!’
‘And what about the time I met you in Holder Court, when ——?’
‘Oh, that — that was pure accident! You see —’
But I was writing. ‘Of high moral character,’ I wrote.
‘Scotty,’ I asked, ‘what kind of an academic record have you?’
‘ Well,’ he said, with more confidence, ‘I never flunked out!’
So I wrote, ‘faithful in the performance of his duties, and of more than average ability.’
‘ What do you know of the profession of arms ? ’
‘Well,’ — and here the newsdealer grinned, — ‘I can do the close formations, as a rear-ranker; and I can get that damn old Krag around pretty well, with the Manual.’
‘Has already had some military training,’ I wrote.
Then I said, ‘Scotty, look me in the eye!’
He looked me in the eye.
‘And I am sure,’ I wrote on, ‘that for courage, for the power of inspiring the men under him, you will find him equal to the best.’
‘Now, Scotty, who am I? ’
He was puzzled. ‘Why — why — you’re a professor.’ There was a note of question in the declaration.
‘No,’ I had to assure him, ‘only an assistant professor. I shall have to tag my name with the title so that the colonel will know by what authority I write.’
I wrote my name and betrayed my insignificance.
‘Will that do?’
In a minute he looked up at me, eyes wet. He saluted. ‘I’ll try to live up to it, sir,’ he said.
I lingered a few minutes in the crowd. He stood a little distance away from me, forgetting me, looking wistfully back at youth — the gray walls and green walks he was leaving. Then he whistled, — of all things! — ‘Aloha oe,’ — a bar or two, — and picking up his bag walked down the platform to the train.
I went on through the rain to my lunch. Mostly, yesterday was rotten.