I like to study faces, particularly feminine faces of about eighteen. Accordingly, while to conceal my designs I pretended to be looking intently at the fireplace, and remarked that I thought open fires much more cheerful than kerosene stoves, I was in reality directing my gaze in a sort of circuitous way upon her features.
My assertion being of such an unanswerable character she ventured no reply, and my observations were carried on with rapidity and success.
"The mouth shows decision and determination. She's rather opinionative. There's a deal of individuality about that forehead; and I war-want that beneath that depth of dark-brown hair there are some terrific uprisings of combativeness. That nose, too, just the least bit on the ascendency, bespeaks a fond relish for logomachy; it starts up just a little as if it sniffed the air for scents of strife and combat." Thus spoke my reflective, phrenological self. But my unphrenological, my natural self, exclaimed, "By the six consumptive sons of my goodie, this girl has a pretty face! Wonderfully pretty!" And my poetic heart burst forth into spontaneous verse, and sang low and softly to itself: -
"Her lips are like two roses rare,
And - and -"
While I, seeking for the appropriate words and requisite rhyme to express in an equally original manner the fact that her cheeks were also like roses, whereas her eyes and hair were not, she interrupted all further flow of inward poesy by inquiring, in a tone of ill-omened penetrativenes, -
"Are you from Harvard?"
I replied with as grear an assumption of humility as an affirmative answer to so pleasing a question would permit, "I am."
"Then," said she, and those two bumps of combativeness rose up and peered over the tips of her ears, "You're conceited; you know you are. You need n't say you're not."
"It is very probable that I am," I replied, "just at this moment. The honor of your acquaintance has been so recently conferred upon me that naturally I carry it, as yet, with some little show of vanity."
Paying no attention to this extraordinary effort of mine, she continued, -
"You Harvard men are all conceited. I don't know why you should be, I'm sure. I should think that you'd feel rather small after Yale has beaten you so many times in football. Oh! that's a magnificent football team, that Yale team."
"You appear to be considerably interested in that Yale football team," I said. "May I inquire if you are acquainted with any worthy blacksmith who turns an honest dollar or two by playing on it; or has your father some farm hands who take that way of providing for their winter's necessities?"
She trotted her little foot on the floor, and replied, -
"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm interested in Yale because I have a brother there."
"Poor, poor girl!" I said, with emotion, "how sorry I feel for you. An own brother there! and it was my thoughtlessness that forced the confession from you. But, though almost a total stranger, be assured of my sympathy."
"I don't know that I have asked for your sympathy or need it either. I'm glad he's at Yale, - good old Yale!"
"I know," I replied; "but pray why did not your father send him to some American college - where English is more generally spoken - where he might meet more young men from the United States, and not quite so many from abroad? Of course I know that it is gratifying to the curiosity to see labelled specimens from the Nile and Cork and the Feejee Islands. But then one would hardly care to chum with them, you know."
"Well, there is this much to be said about colleges, I'm glad father did n't send Tom to Harvard. I think it's the hatefullest, most irreligious place. Now, answer me truly. Don't they turn out a great many infidels every year at Harvard?"
"A great many?" I exclaimed. "Well, I guess they do! They turn out every one they can find. They won't have them in the college a day if they can help it."
"This is too serious a question, sir, to make light of. You know that Harvard is a very bad place to send young men. My aunt stayed in Cambridge a little while last winter, and she told me that one afternoon, when she was riding in a horse-car, there was a student there so intoxicated that when a lady got in he stood up in front of her, and took his hat off and began to talk to her, and tried to make her take his seat; and she was a stranger to him too. In all the years that my aunt has lived in New Haven she never saw anything like that."
"I'll allow that that was pretty bad," I said. "We do occasionally have a few rather fast young fellows - graduates from Connecticut colleges - that come to get an education, you know; but they rarely get beyond Freshman year. But as for this little matter of spirituous imbibition, you must concede that the New Haven students are infinitely worse than we are. W(h)y, a-l-e is the very name their college goes by wherever it is known; and porter is the fountain of their life, their stay, their prop, their patron deity."
"Well, I don't care," she replied. "I think a Yale man is just as nice as he can be."
"Oh yes," I said. "I have no aversion to a Yale man. He emerges from oblivion, pins a few pieces of zinc on the front of his vest, sits for four years on a few inches of fence, gets a little blue cambric and has it charged, and then passes back into oblivion. No; I've nothing against a Yale man."
"Whatever else he is," she rejoined, "the Yale man is a gentleman, which is enough to distinguish him very clearly from certain members of certain other colleges;" and with this she flounced out of the room, returning in a moment to thrust her head through the door with, "I think you're just hateful. So! there! I'm glad you've got to go back to-morrow morning."
That was our first interview, but I am pleased to remark that it was n't our last. I was with her all that day and the next. With some effort she found herself soon able to tolerate me; and, as for me, I always did dote on having some one to fight with. As for the necessity of my departure on the morrow, though when I accepted the invitation I represented such to be the case, still I felt at liberty under the circumstances to reconsider. So I remained. In short, I continued to remain, and should have been there now if the girls' vacation of a week had not come to its natural end, and carried them back to school.
Just at present I am living wholly for the Christmas recess. You'll understand me better if I read a sentence from a letter I received yesterday from my cousin: -
"Remember, the whole of the holiday recess. Don't make any other engagement. Be sure to come. Kate (Kate is the Yale girl) is going to stay with me all through the holidays, and she wants you to come ever so much. Of course she has not told me so in just so many words. Indeed, when I told her that I should invite you, she asked what difference that made to her; but you should have seen her face when she said it. You'll come, won't you."
Shall I go? With all the unassuming modesty of my sex I answer: "Well, I should n't wonder."