BOSTON, March 23, 1900.
MY DEAR WILL, - Yesterday afternoon I went out to Cambridge for the first time since we graduated. An account of the visit may amuse you.
In Bowdoin Square I boarded a Broadway car. At the bridge the conductor entered, and asked me if I was a Harvard graduate. I admitted that I was. Without a word more, he presented me with a small chromo. "Wh-what's this for?" I stammered. "Why, sir, all ride free now, and graduates of the College receive chromos. Every student is presented with a cabinet photograph of the Registrar."
As we passed the old Gymnasium, I noticed that it was an entire ruin. The conductor informed me that an instructor in German had kept his marking-machine there, and one day, when he was trying to get minus fifty per cent out of it, the thing exploded. The instructor had twenty-four funerals. They buried as much of him as they could find the first time, and whenever another piece was discovered, they had an extra funeral.
I stopped at the new Gymnasium, and entered the office. The Father of the Rifle-Corps was gone, and his chair was occupied by a little man in full evening-dress. "Are you the superintendent?" I inquired. "No, sir; I am the professor of dancing." Rather startled, I asked if I could see the building. He answered in the affirmative, and led the way into the large hall. I looked in vain for the apparatus. The floor was carefully waxed, and around the walls were sofas and chairs. At the northern end of the hall was a platform, upon which were several music-stands. My meditations were interrupted by my guide. "This is the hall in which the students formerly exercised; but when athletics became so very unpopular, the Faculty, in response to the universal wish, converted it into a dancing-hall. We have ten electives in Dancing. The hall is now ready for the third assembly in Dancing 8, to take place this evening. This elective is open to Seniors only, and is very select." "But," said I, "is there no trouble about partners?" "Not a bit. We have the elite of Boston and Cambridge. In Dancing I, however, open only to Freshmen, the Goodies are called into requisition as partners." I said I hoped they were more attractive than mine used to be.
We next went down stairs. Alas! the bowling-alleys were no more. The whole basement had been converted into an enormous billiard-hall, supplied with eight large tables. At each table were four students, and others were looking on. "Speak softly, sir," said my companion, "as this is a recitation in Billiards 5. There are seven electives in billiards. This is the advanced course in fifteen ball pool."
We then ascended to the gallery. Upon the wall on one side was a mirror of fifty or more feet in length. My question was forestalled by the information that "the Freshmen practise the 'Harvard Swing' along there." We passed on. Through a half-open door I caught a glimpse of a few men putting up dumb-bells. I drew nearer, but my companion grasped me by the arm, and said in a hoarse whisper, "Don't go in there. It is dangerous. They are Law Students. Don't you see their beards?" I did n't, but nevertheless hurried away and returned to the office.
On the walls were photographs of college athletes, some of whom I recognized. "But who are these?" said I, pointing to a group of men of unmistakably Hibernian proclivities. "That's the last year's Harvard nine. When Ernst left, we were unable to fill his place from the College, so we hired Tommy Bond to come in as special student. Since that, our whole nine has become professional. "That fellow," pointing to a particularly villanous-looking specimen of the plug ugly, "is Mike Rooney the shortstop." I waited to hear no more, but turned and left the building. What I saw in the Yard and in Sever Hall I will reserve for another letter.