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.